Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Her Endearing Young Charms - Yours for 99c

To celebrate the new cover of Her Endearing Young Charms, we've gone on sale.

Grab your ebook version of Her Endearing Young Charms from your favourite retailer this week (8 - 15 November) for only 99c.  

Amazon | B&N | Kobobooks | Smashwords | iBooks

If you do pick up Her Endearing Young Charms on sale, please do me a favour and post an honest review on Amazon or GoodReads. This helps other readers find great books.

Meanwhile, I'm going back to working on The Charm of Truth, the second book in the series. These books don't write themselves (okay, sometimes they do).

Meanwhile, A Lady of Many Charms is still free, if you haven't grabbed it yet.  A | B&N | K | SW | iB

Her Grace wishes to contribute greatly to your need to escape real life through fiction.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Tuesday's Tale - The Sanctity of the Trick or Treat Bag

Today's Tale is inspired by Halloween last week. While not as big as it is in the US, Trick or Treating is gaining a steady foothold by kids who'll do anything in pursuit of lollies. Not every house is prepared, however, so you can often catch a surprised yet well-meaning adult at home who'll grab whatever is lying around. My daughters once came home with 2-litre bottles of juice, artificial flower arrangements, jars of salsa and a can of lentils.

Auntie says we're too old for Trick or Treating. But Mama doesn't care. Any good excuse to get us out of the house is fine by her.

So Brody and me grabbed whatever black jumpers and capes we could find, pulled the cases off our pillows and ran whooping into the night. Other mamas must have felt the same as ours, because a whole lot of Brody's friends were also out. He joined up with them and I had no choice but to tag along.

Brody's tall like any other fifteen year old, but I'm short for my age. I figure I've got another good five or six years before people start giving me the same scornful looks he and his friends got from door to door. Still, the people handed out candy to a bunch of teenage boys and me.

Tall boys got an advantage: long legs. Boy, do they know how to use them! Brody and his friends ran from house to house. Me, I could barely keep up. Still, I followed them from street to street, sometimes making it to the back of the group before they ran off, other times, missing out on a house because the door had closed and the boys were already on their way to the next.

Mama would have killed me if I went off on my own. Don't think I wasn't tempted.

Someone in Brody's group must have had brains, because they by-passed the houses in our neighborhood and took us the next one over. Best. Idea. Ever.

This was the nice neighborhood, the one with all the guys who wear ties to work and carry briefcases, not lunchboxes. Big houses with nice yards and too many steps to climb to get to the door. It was worth it, though. These places handed out the big candy bars.

I'm completely coming here again next year.

My bag got heavier and heavier and the boys got faster and faster. They must have cut in to their stash, though we're not supposed to until we get home. The only thing worse than boys on sugar was boys on alcohol.

They zoomed up a hill and knocked on a really nice door. I hefted my bag up the steps, those big candy bars taking their toll.

They must have been handing out some really nifty stuff, because the boys all whooped and hollered and ran off, leaving me behind on the steps.

Maybe ditching them was the best idea, seeing they looked to be ditching me. Mama would never know the difference, unless the night ended up with me in a ditch.

Still, greed and tiredness stopped me from following them. I stood there, two steps below the porch and watched them run off.

"Abandoned you, did they?" came a strange voice. I looked up into the brightness of the porch.

The lady of the house stood there, her skinny arms folded across her well-dressed chest. She held no bowl of candy. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were red. She sniffed. "Get used to it, honey. They're all like that."

Did her words have to sting so much?

I didn't want to follow after Brody and the others. But it felt shallow and greedy to hold open my bag to her. We stood there and stared at each other, her and me.

Eventually, she looked around inside. Then her gaze fell to her hand. With a tug, she pulled off a diamond ring. "Might as well take this. Save you the pain of having a man give you one."

She dropped it into my bag. Before I had the wits to say thank you, she closed the door and turned off the porch light, leaving me in darkness.

It was a miracle I got down those steps without breaking my fool neck in the dark.

The boys were long gone. Even their sugar-fuelled noise had faded away.

I sighed. My bag was heavy, but I couldn't go home. Auntie'd chew me up for going out in the first place and Mama might ask questions why I was home early and where was Brody. (Answer: don't know, don't care.)

So, I struck out on my own. Amazing how nice people were to a lone girl. You by yourself? they'd ask. No, I'd reply, gesturing behind me. Mama didn't want to climb the stairs. Not that they could see anything peering out into the dark. Sometimes they'd be nice and throw in an extra candy bar for Mama.

This stash will last me to Christmas, if I can keep it well-hidden.

By the time all the porch lights were turning off, my bag was so heavy I had to stop every half block to set it down and rest. No way was I abandoning my loot.

Brody had gotten home before I did and Auntie let loose her sharp tongue on me. Where had I been, why was I late, why wasn't I with Brody, and so on.

Naturally, I blamed Brody. He's too tall, he's too fast. I couldn't keep up, though I tried. Then she turned on him, 'cause it was his fault, and I was able to escape. Had to hide my well-gotten gains. The candy went into my usual hiding spot, but the ring?  I rolled it between my fingers, studying the glitter of the light off the diamond. I think it was a diamond, though I didn't think they got that big.

Maybe it wasn't. Who'd give a diamond to a kid?

The same person who'd give a car to a teenage boy.

Brody never could keep a secret. It wasn't a candy bar that lady gave to him, but a set of car keys. Brody took 'em to school and bragged about 'em all day. That lady gave away a whole lot of other fancy stuff to the other boys: mobile phones (which they wiped), fancy ornaments, (which they broke) and one even got a bottle of alcohol. What kind of idiot gives a bottle of hooch to a teenage boy?

But Brody, he got the best thing. I'm sure if he had had two wits about him last night, he would have driven off in the thing then and there. But nope, not him. Got the keys, said she said he could have the car, it was all his, and he forgot to take it with him. (Not that he can drive.) Later on today, he said, he'd go claim "his" car. Drive around like he owned it.

But he didn't. That afternoon he chickened out and went home on the bus like the rest of us. He never did shut up about that car.

Me, I said nothing about the ring. I stuck it on the little crystal tray where I kept all my cheap trinkets, the broken steel necklaces, the peeling little rings that turn your finger green. Maybe nobody'd notice.

The next day we got a knock on our door. The police work fast if it's rich people complaining. Work even faster if your envious mates grass on you.

Someone had.

At least the police were nice about it. Maybe because one of them was a woman. Mama answered the door and called for Brody. Brody showed up. Moment he saw the police all his bravado hissed out of him like a balloon. "I didn't steal 'em," he whined.

"We know," the woman officer replied.

But Mama didn't tell Brody to go get the keys. (Not that he had to. They were in his pocket.) "May I ask what this is about?"

"No, ma'am," the man officer said. But the woman officer ignored him. "Domestic dispute. Baby girl thought it'd be funny to give away her cheating boyfriend's stuff to Trick or Treaters." Naturally, the officers were here to collect it back.

They made Brody give back the car keys. (Would he have actually gone driving?) Not that he'd have been able to keep the car. He claimed he had no idea what the other boys got, or what they did with it. I believed him. I suppose the moment she dropped those keys into his bag, he completely forgot about his mates, the way he'd forgotten about me.

To our relief, once they got back the keys and took down a few details, they went away. Never said they'd be back.

Me?  I kept my mouth shut. I kept the ring.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

You NEED fiction.

Get absorbed by a good book.
So here I am in the first week of NaNoWriMo and not doing too bad. (Check out my progress.)  As a professional author, my time is not only about the wordage. It's about the rest of the craft as well, from editing to publishing to marketing to developing a relationship with my readers.

As I'm reading through a marketing blog, I came across this quote from the (non-fiction) author:

"Nobody NEEDS fiction. It doesn’t solve any of life’s problems – other than an escape from boredom."

At this, my eyes bugged out, my jaw dropped and my inner child threw a toddler tantrum.

THAT IS SOOO NOT TRUE!! We need fiction very much.
Fiction serves a very necessary need in our society. It provides a very necessary mental health benefit. You ask many a dedicated fiction reader and they will tell you why they read. It certainly is not to relieve boredom. No way.

Reading fiction provides the following benefits:

  • Escape from reality. Reading a book is like taking a little mental vacation. We have work, we have school, we have housework, paying bills, driving in traffic, parenting and a whole slew of Adulty things that need doing and that demand our spoons. Losing oneself in fiction lets you refill the cutlery drawer--essentially, recharging one's mental batteries.
  • Outside-the-Box thinking. The reason we love fiction is because it is so different to our lives, and yet so similar to our lives. Here was have different characters in different situations, maybe even different worlds, yet they have problems just like us. Problems they need to solve. By looking at how they solve their problems, we might learn different methodologies or different approaches, solutions we could take back into reality with us and possibly apply in our own lives.
  • Stimulates our Creativity. When we read fiction, we need to imagine the characters, their world, their situation and more. This exercises our creativity. Creativity is a necessary life-skill for problem solving and personal growth.
  • Improves brain connectivity and function. Or so say the neuroscientists, especially if the book has a strong narrative line.  (Note to self: construct strong, intricate plots.)  Here's the study.
  • Develop a better understanding of Humanity. To be strong members of society, we need to have a strong understanding of our fellow human beings. Fiction helps with that, especially if you read a variety of genres. Thomas and Ernestine get this.
  • Teaches us the skills of Empathy, Curiosity and the Acceptance of Change. The plot of a book is all about change. It's inevitable. By reading fiction, we learn that Change is normal and to be expected. When you read, you're curious about what's going to happen. Curiosity is a good thing. It makes you pro-active. Change is going to happen to the characters. As we undertake this journey with them, we might recognise elements of them within ourselves. This empathy improves our inter-relational skills.
To that non-fiction author who thinks that reading fiction is merely a boredom reliever, fie on thee! Do thyself a favour and go read more books.

Here's a few to get thee started:

As Good As Gold | For Richer, For Poorer | Marry Me | A Lady of Many Charms (free!) | Her Endearing Young Charms | The White Feather

Question of the Day: Why do you read fiction?

Her Grace has just polished off a 40g bag of Jelly Belly.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Ellen Harris-Braun - Enjoy your well-deserved rest

I was sad to hear of the passing of Ellen K Harris-Braun, a beautiful lady whose actions were instrumental in the development of my writing career.

Ellen and her husband Eric ran the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.  I've belonged to this workshop since it first started as the Del Rey OWW, oh, nearly twenty years ago. Ellen and Eric took over from Del Rey and turned it into an extremely useful and well-respected writer's workshop.

Many a successful author passed through the OWW's digital doors and I've met many wonderful people because of it. More than half my apprenticeship and the first part of my journeymanhood was served there. I honestly can't think of any one class or group or anything else that made such a profound difference in my career.  Dr Anne Wingate got me started on my career, but Ellen & Eric's OWW kept me going.

While I've not had much time these past couple of years to spend on the workshop, My heart still belongs there. Ellen put a lot of hard work into the place and I, as well as countless other authors, are better for it.

Cancer happens. We all have someone close to us who's been affected by it. Sometimes you win the fight. Sometimes you don't. One thing cancer can  never do is erase the impact someone had on the world.

Ellen's impact was huge. I am a better person for it.  Thank you, Ellen, for your hard work.

Her Grace

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Tuesday's Tales - The Thesis

Today's Tuesday's Tale is inspired by a chilling story of some dropkick (soon to be ex-) boyfriend who attempted to delete his (probably now ex-) girlfriend's Honor's Thesis. Dude, you just don't do that. Also inspired by this semester's essay, which is nearly done. Nearly.

Amanda stared at her computer. Maybe she didn't see right? Or maybe she clicked the wrong link?

No. Maybe it got accidentally renamed?

Search: no result.

Amanda's stomach sank. The hum of the dorm outside her doorway faded into the rushing sound in her head. She drew a deep breath before it overwhelmed her. "Where the hell is my thesis?"

"Oh," said her boyfriend Tom. "I deleted it." He sat on the bottom dorm bunk, his thumbs twiddling over his phone.

Amanda blinked and turned around. "You.... what?"

His gaze didn't leave his smartphone. "C'mon. You didn't need it."

That rushing sound came back. "Didn't... need...?" She had to put her head between her knees. Surely he didn't...

His thumbs stopped tapping. "Look, Mandy. You're spending too much time on that crap. You really should be spending more time on me."

That made her whirl around in her desk chair. "More time? We spend enough time as it is."

"Seriously?" he replied. "Look. I'm sitting here on the bed playing Angry Birds while you poke at that keyboard. We should be going out for drinks or something."

She flung a hand in the direction of her computer. "This was due in three days. Three. Days!"  Tears filled her eyes before spilling down her cheeks. "My degree--" Her throat closed up.

He shrugged and went back to his game. "So?  Now you have three days to spend with me."

Amanda's breath shuddered as she drew it in to her chest. Slowly she rose from her chair. "You want to spend more time with me?"

He didn't reply; his focus was on the phone.

"How about this? I kill you. We have you cremated, and I keep your urn on the table here."  Her hand moved across the formica of the dorm desk.

Tom didn't react until he'd won level 37. Then he looked up. "What was that?"

* * *

Google Docs had saved Amanda's life. Nothing could save Tom's. Two days later, she emailed her advisor asking if it was okay to turn in her thesis a day early. "I've had some bad news. I need to attend a funeral on Friday."

Her advisor granted her request. Even offered to extend the date of her defense.

Amanda turned it down. "It wasn't as if we were close."

Her Grace is grateful for modern technology.