Sunday, 26 June 2016

PitchWars: Pimp My Bio

So I'm gonna #PimpMyBio for #PitchWars.

Lana Pattinson's got a whole bunch of pimped out bios for PitchWars. Now I'm one of them. Go hop-a-long. Also, this is two parts, with my Pitch accessorised a la Chanel in another post.

tl;dr version:  @heidikneale, subbing a completed adult Fantasy novel, already pubbed (small press), looking for a mentor to help me take my career to the next level (representation by an agent).

I'm Heidi Wessman Kneale
& I write Fantasy Romance.

About Me

I'm a polymath. That means I know lots of things about lots of stuff. I've had plenty of opportunity to become sufficiently masterful at some rather fancy skills.

My day job is IT Support, as it has been for the past twenty-odd years. Got into it at university as a way of supporting my educational habit and never really got out. It pays well, but doesn't satisfy my soul.

I'm a musician. I like music. I spent my teenage years in a symphony orchestra. I performed at Carnegie Hall. Music is my hobby now, even though I once did it professionally. My BA is in Film and Music.

I'm an astronomer. I'm currently pursuing a Master of Science in Astronomy. I observe with a Celestron NexStar 130SLT. I'm more into the conceptual astronomy, rather than astrophysics and I absolutely adore history of astronomy, planetary science and astrobiology.
Look! I shot the Moon!
I never understood the concept of celebrity crushes until I met Richard Armitage ten years ago. I will love him and only him for the rest of my life.

My Author Dream

Everything I've done has had its season and has made me happy for a while. But I keep coming back to the one thing I absolutely cannot live without.

I want to be an author. I always have wanted to be an author.

As a child I secretly dreamed of writing books that people loved. Why? Because I loved books. I loved them soooo much! They were my best friends. I read voraciously.

One of the greatest powers an author can have is to make someone happy because of a book. Writing makes me very happy and I want to share that happiness with others.

I wrote my first novel at age ten. Wrote another couple of novels and a handful of short stories as a teen, but didn't really get serious about writing until my freshman year at university.

My writing apprenticeship started off with a bang when crime author Dr Anne Wingate took me under her wing. “What are you doing studying biology when you should be writing?” she once told me. She was so right. Even when I thought I wanted to be something else (a geneticist), underneath it all, I wanted to be an author.

It's been there the whole time. No matter what I was doing with my life, there was always a novel in my life I was working on. I snuck in writing classes at university. Even when I was severely abused and degraded by my peers in those classes (I wrote genre fiction, they wrote literary), it never killed my thirst to be a novelist.

I joined the Online Writing Workshop in its first year and pretty much spent the next decade and a half there honing my craft. It was incredibly useful for me through my apprenticeship and the first part of my journeymanhood. I highly recommend it. I've participated in crit groups (Vicious Circle and Stromatolights) and have had a handful of beta-readers and CPs.

I had lots of little things published--short stories and non-fiction articles, but hadn't yet cracked the novel market.

That was my fault.

Several years ago I watched as my OWW peeps started getting books published. Good books. Impressive books. Books you have read.

Me? Nothing. Why not?

Because all this time I'd been treating writing as a hobby instead of a career.

So I buckled down and got serious.

I dug out and polished up my favouritest novels and wrote several more. I queried them and submitted some novellas to a small press. The small press loved my novellas and I've been publishing steadily with them ever since.

One query of mine (a Regency Romance with magic) got some nibbles, but no serious bites. I decided to go indie with it because it's a really good story. It's only been out a few weeks, but people have said nice things about it. As soon as I can get more of a marketing push behind it, I expect it to do rather well. I have two more novels in this series I plan on taking indie.

Let's Go Pro

Being a hybrid author has helped show me what I want in a career. Indie's nice and all, but my dreams have always been in the direction of commercial publishing. I enjoy my experience with the small press--the working with a team, an editor to counterbalance my blind spots, a marketing champion who knows the secret promotional handshakes, lovely cover artists. I want to take this to the next level.

I wanna be published by some Random Penguin. For that, I need an agent.

Breakthrough Novel?

I have this beautiful otherworld Fantasy trilogy that I love to bits. My beta-readers adore it. My freelance editor enjoyed it. But I can't seem to win over an agent.

What do you do when the God of the Dark proposes marriage? Say no, of course!

What do you do when Heidi Kneale queries you with a novel? (You're supposed to say yes. Stop saying no!)

What to Expect from Me as a Mentee

I'm a journeyman author. I've written twenty novels (some of which will never see the light of day. Others I hope have a glorious dawning). I've written lots of short stories and I've written a half-dozen novellas. I've spend decades in various crit groups, etc. I've had editors tell me like it is, and together we've created publishable stuff.

I'm not new to the game. You tell me something, I will listen and I will work with you.

In the early stages of my career I had a mentor and I learned so much from her. Every major step of my career has come through the help of others. Now as I search for an agent, I find I am in need of help once more.

I’ve been on the query train for a few years. I’ve gotten some interest in a few full requests and some R&Rs, but there’s as far as it's gone. I would love a mentor to help me lift my game that extra bit so I can reach the next level: representation by an agent.

I hope to find a mentor who can see what I can't. Is it my voice? Is it my pacing? Is my query letter lacking in that je ne sais quois that snags an agent's interest? Beta-readers have helped me immensely, but they can't help me with those little things that an agent might be looking for.

Maybe a PitchWars mentor can.

I believe I've written a novel with a solid plot with deep characters; it's kept my beta-readers up all night. I need advice on how to lift this glorious novel to the next level.

So, I'm entering PitchWars 2016.

Let me introduce you to OF THE DARK.

Her Grace is done with dreaming about success and would much rather work for it.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Why I love escapism

I've always been a fan of escapism.  Life is hard, reality can really suck, especially if you're powerless to change most of it.

To that end, to preserve one's sanity, a bit of escapism is required.

Luke Ski understands.

Her Grace's primary reason for writing is to offer escapism to fellow human beings who desperately need it.  Life getting you down? Go read one of my books. I promise, you'll feel better.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

I got news...

... good news.

And everyone subscribed to the Quarterly Newsletter gets to hear it first.

WHAT?! You're not on my Quarterly Newsletter? What about being the first to hear news? What about discounts and updates and other great content? Do you really want to miss out and wait for reruns?

The next edition of the Quarterly newsletter is coming out end of June, so if you want to be the first to hear all the news of upcoming projects and releases, including insider discounts and more, plunk your name down here and click "subscribe":

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Her Grace will never sell or otherwise use your information other than to communicate with you through the Quarterly Newsletter and notification of new book releases. You're too important to her for anything else but the highest respect.

Monday, 13 June 2016

#pitmad or mad pit?

The other day I said, "What the hey?" and tossed a few twitter pitches up for Of The Dark on #pitmad.

One of my tweets got ignored. The other one got four favourites, every single one of them from small press.

This was a mild surprise, as I was primarily trawling for agents.  Still, a nibble is a nibble and worth consideration.

I'd never heard of the four small presses who favourited me, so I was up for some research. After all, I've learned that one does not toss one's mss out into the waters willy-nilly. Who knows what will bite you?

One publisher was moved to the bottom of the pile because I didn't like the look of their covers. The other three I'm researching and considering. I might pitch them all, or I might not pitch any of them.

That's right. I might not pitch any of them. After the favourites rolled in and I discovered they were small press (not agents), I couldn't help but compare them to the small press I'm currently with. They're pretty good. Granted, they only handle the one genre, and I'm branching out.

My small press has treated me well and professionally. I'm quite pleased. Maybe a little spoiled. Because of this, my research into these interested small presses involves comparing them to my experiences and expectations.

What do their covers look like? Do their current books intrigue me? Would I want to read any of them? Prededitors say anything about this publisher? Does their web page focus more on selling books or wooing authors? Any talk about them (good/bad/ugly)? Do their authors speak well of them? What's their marketing like? How well are their authors selling? What royalty percentage do they pay? Any advances? eBook only or eBook and print? Distribution? T&C's or contracts available for perusal?

Also, I've recently gone hybrid. And there's another thing to consider/compare. How do these small presses stack up against my indie publishing experience?

If I was a debut author, I'd be all over that like a baby on ice cream. But I'm not.

For my career at this stage, a publisher has got to give me added dimension to my career. They need to be able to provide something that I either don't have, or can't get easily.

So yeah. That's a lot to ask of a small press. But hey, they just might be able to do that.

Thus, the research. If I'm gonna throw my hat into their pond, I want to know what the water is gonna do to it.

Her Grace has been reading too much of the Shark.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

TASE Day: Why American Cheddar is Orange

-or- Why We Have Always Been Susceptible to Marketing

Today on Janet Reid's Blog, the conversation drifted off-course into the realm of colouring lard and oleomargarines yellow to resemble butter in the first half of the 20th Century.  (These things happen on the Reef.)

It reminded me of a bit of history I learned on my first job as a Living History docent. Sometimes Nature needed a little assistance when it came to aesthetics.

In Summer, when the cows had plenty of fresh grazing, the milk would come out nice and rich in colour. The resultant cream and therefore butter, would have a nice, yellow cast to it. Beautiful and tasty-looking.

In the Winter, when cows relied on fodder (dry hay, etc), the colour was rather pale and unappetising. So, when we made butter in Winter, we'd grate a carrot, soak it in water, and use this carotene-coloured water when washing the butter. This gave a nice, golden summery colour to the butter, which would, in turn, sell better.  (This was in the 19th Century.)

Because people believed quality was accurately affected by appearance, they'd believe  the yellower butter was the better one, and would pay a higher price for it.

Same thing went for cheese. When you set milk with rennet to make cheese, if the colour of the milk was pale, the cheese would come out pale. But if you mixed in a bit of that carotene-water before you set the milk with rennet, the cheese would come out with a more golden colour.

This cheese always sold better. So manufacturers started colouring it all the time.

Gradually, over the course of a few decades, the brighter-coloured cheese sold better than the paler cheese. So up went the colour palatte until we have the fluorescent orange American Cheddar you all know and love today. The colouring is completely artificial and purely a marketing tactic. It wasn't until recently (and a change in the perception of image = quality) that so-called "white cheddar" made a re-appearance (at a  higher price, of course).

Really, white cheddar is exactly the same as your orange cheddar, only without the added orange colouring.

Her Grace has a secret addiction to history.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

June o'Clock

May, for me, is a very busy month. Lots of stuff happens in May. I won't bore you with it.

But now it's June and I'm ready to delve into some work. After the successful launch of Her Endearing Young Charms, I'm ready to finish off the second A Lady of Many Charms book, tentatively titled "The Charm of Truth".

It involves a scandal.

Now, when most people speak of scandal, they usually refer to sexual scandal. But in the Regency Era, there were all kinds of scandal--not just ones between the sheets.

Scandals involved anything that was morally questionable. Certain upright citizens spotted in gaming hells?  Scandal. Caught cheating at cards? Scandal. Using your social position to wrangle certain political favours? Scandal. The list goes on. Divorce? Oooh, that's a scandal!

So when I want a nice, juicy subplot, I love turning to the 18th and 19th Century scandals that shocked and secretly titillated London Society. In The Charm of Truth, someone is caught selling something they shouldn't...

19th Century Scandals (that aren't all about the sex)

The Andover Workhouse Scandal shocked the public when they learned how the workhouse master had been treating the inmates in a manner so shocking it made other workhouses look like Club Med.
Morals broken: theft, abuse of trust and responsibility

The Trader Post Scandal meant that poor soldiers could only buy supplies from certain trader posts.
Morals broken: monopoly and bribery

Yes, even Queen Victoria had a celebrity stalker who stole her knickers.
Morals broken: theft, B&E

In the Tranby-Croft Affair, Sir William Gordon-Cumming was caught cheating at cards. Because of this, he was cut off socially forever.
Morals broken: cheating (at cards), frivolous court case

Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), kept her dead husband's heart in her desk for the rest of her life.  This was after she fought his friends for his remains after his unceremonious cremation on a foreign beach after his drowning.
Morals broken: good taste,, possibly grave-robbing? Corpse desecration?

Her Grace isn't above listening to other people's gossip, for it makes excellent subplots in her novels.