Wednesday, 26 December 2018

It's Boxing Day

Americans don't celebrate Boxing Day, but Australians do.  Might have something to do with the clement weather.

Okay, "clement" really means bloody hot.  So, what do our mates do? Gather to a mate's house to open The Box*, and proceed to spend a lazy afternoon of cocktails and Doing Not Much.

One of the really cool things about Australia is that if you don't drink alcohol (I'm a teetotaler through-and-through) is that they're really hakuna matata about those that don't drink. They're accepting of your ways. You can go to a bar and order an LL&B, and they'll give you one, no questions asked. Order any of the mocktails on the menu, and that's cool. Nobody will suspect you're Mormon, pregnant or the Designated Driver if you go non-alcoholic. (Americans aren't so kind.) 

Australian mocktails are pretty cool. Anywhere that serves alcohol will also have a dozen or so mocktails on offer. There's usually something minty, something strawberry, and a few other things that might not naturally occur in nature. Everything varies from place to place, and nobody is ever found wanting. (Australians don't do Shirley Temples, alas.)

LL&Bs, or Lemon-Lime & Bitters, are everywhere in Australia. I have never found a licensed place that didn't offer them. It's what you drink when you're not drinking.

Here's how to make your own at home.

Lemon-Lime and Bitters

3-4 drops Angostura Bitters
1 Tbsp (or to taste) Lime Cordial (aka a lime-flavoured sugar syrup)
300ml of soda water, or 'lemonade' (aka carbonated lemon-flavoured soft drink, like Sprite)

Coat the inside of the glass with the drops of Angostura Bitters. Pour the lime cordial in the bottom of the glass. Fill with soda water/lemonade. Soda water gives you a drier drink, whereas the lemonade adds lots more sweetness.  Drink cold on a veranda on a hot Australian Boxing Day.

*The Box is a box of various liquors and other alcoholic paraphernalia left over from their University days. Yes, The Box has been around for decades. This makes sense, when you realise The Box only gets opened once or twice a year. It is a stunningly impressive collection of various alcohols, including a bottle of genuine wormwood absinthe that I believe nobody is game enough to try.

Monday, 24 December 2018

It's Christmas Eve...

StudioSarah Lou knows how to party on Christmas in Australia. CC 2.0

Checklist for Christmas Eve in Australia:

1. Ensure the kids get LOTS of exercise during the afternoon so they're worn out and will actually go to sleep tonight. Know that it is only a few days after the Summer Solstice, and the sun doesn't actually set in Australia until about 8pm.
2. Dress kids in the Jammies from Grammy's, as that's a family tradition. Tell youngest that yes, it's okay to sleep with just the top on, as it is too hot for bottoms.
3. Set out cookies for Santa, and convince kids that yes, Santa does want a cold glass of Passiona and not a glass of milk, because Santa is lactose-intolerant. Besides, this is Australia and the middle of summer. If you leave a glass of milk out, guaranteed it will be yoghurt by the time Santa arrives.
4. Read my loverly blog entry about Christmas in Australia on the Long and Short Reviews Blogfest and comment for a chance to win a prize. This is what you do while you wait for the kids to fall asleep.
5. Tell the kids you'll play lots of Christmas music that night for them as long as they stay in bed.
6. After checking on kids for the tenth time and finding out that yes, they're finally asleep, "Santa" lays out all the gifts, eats half the cookies, drinks all the tepid Passiona, and finally goes to bed. After all, the kids are gonna be up at 4:30am (along with that Australian Summer sun) to see what Santa brought them.
7. Lay on your bed under the air conditioning and dream of a winter Christmas because it's frickin' hot!

Tuesday, 13 November 2018


Yeah, I think I'd be okay with this,
as long as I get to choose the tree.
Imma gonna get my Goth self out of the closet (where I tend to keep her most of the time) and we're gonna  have a pleasant little chat about burial caskets.

See, death doesn't scare me. (I hope you also come to a place where it doesn't scare you either.) Because of this, I have been able to openly speak to my multitudinous offspring regarding my wishes for my funeral, et cetera.

I have only two solid wishes:

  1. Play my music at my funeral. 
  2. Do not feel you must spend much money on my funeral in order to show grief. Bury me in an old cardboard box if you want. I'm okay with that. I'd much rather you spend the money on yourself to make your lives happier. Keep things on the cheap because I'll be dead and won't care.
My daughters, with their own wry senses of humour, wholeheartedly embraced this idea. I've never been one much for adhering to others idea of "tradition". Therefore, if something slightly different comes along, I'm game to consider it.

Now, actual cardboard coffins are more expensive than the bog-standard pine box, it turns out. Seeing that price is the main factor, whatever coffin is the cheapest is good enough for me.

Then last week on Mr Money Mustache, I came across Nature's Casket.  What a cool idea!

Pine beetle infestations can be ruinous to the lumber industry. The beetles infest the wood, introduce a fungus that weakens the wood, and kill the tree. The resultant wood can't be used because its structural soundness is compromised. You can't use beetle-kill wood to build anything you wish to last more than a couple of years.

So, what can you build that only needs to last as long as the funeral and interment?  A casket of course! A casket only has to last a few days until it's buried, then it's welcome to return to nature. What an excellent use of this otherwise-useless wood?

Pine borers are a present pest in WA, so if I could get my hands on some pine borer wood, that'll do fine for building a casket here. 

Another option the daughters considered was a burial pod.  The Italian company Capsula Mundi offers burial pods, with a tree planted over the pod. They liked this idea, and I might be okay if they bent rule #2 for this option.

"What kind of tree do you want, Mum?" they asked me.

A fruit tree, definitely.  Apricot would be best, as it has a taproot, but if that is discouraged, I want a cherry tree.  Otherwise, any fruit or nut tree will do.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Dear 2020 Convention Committees: Timing sucks.

(...and don't think you're off the hook yet, High School Reunion Committee...)

A handful of years ago I wanted to go to my 25th high school reunion in Salt Lake City. As I live on the opposite side of the planet, to do such a thing would take a few years of saving and planning.  So save I did, and I worked on the planning.

Part of the planning was figuring out when the reunion would be. The year was easy enough to nail down, but the other details were more difficult in coming forth. At this time, not enough people were socially connected enough to make tracking down info easy.

I finally got a hold of the reunion committee, only to learn that there wasn't going to be a 25th HS reunion.

What? Who on earth thought that was a good idea?

Obviously, enough of the local muggles who thought that a reunion every ten years was sufficient, as they saw each other enough during the rest of the year not to bother. They all voted on it, not realising that the next reunion was supposed to be a significant one, and I'd been planning to attend for years.

REALLY?  You know I live in Australia, right? And I'm not the only overseas alumnus. (Obviously, the local yokels don't plan ahead like I do. Yes, I lay plans years in advance. What? It's a perfectly sensible thing to do.)

Feeling a bit put out at the provincial-ness of my fellow high school students, I used the money instead to go to WorldCon, which happened to be held in Australia that year.  A good time was had by all, and I did get to meet a whole lotta my peers that I previously only knew online.  Sooo wanted to attend another WorldCon, or its sisters.

Alas, life got in the way and I had to live it.

Nevertheless, I've been planning for the past ten years to attend my next high school reunion. Have already started saving.  Have started negotiating times. (I prefer early July, so I can bring my daughters during their winter school break, but they committee's considering early August. Again, the provincial thinking. They think everyone will be too busy on 4th July. Really? One... day.... and you can't plan a reunion within a two-week period?)  Have started everything I need to do, and hope I get things that aren't too far out of my way.

Then I received the news that WorldCon will be in New Zealand. In August.

At first, I thought that if the Reunion Committee didn't plan the reunion the same weekend as the con, I might be able to swing by EnZed on the way home. It's doable, and far out enough I might be able to budget for it... presuming the Reunion Committee can get something locked in before the airfares go up. (By the way, that's a six month window. I doubt they know that.)

Then, I learn that Romance Writers of Australia are holding their convention that year... in Perth.  

In August.


Okay, If the Reunion Committee can manage to get the reunion settled in July (or early-early August), maybe I can then swing by New Zealand for WorldCon on the way home, then arrive in Perth just in time for RWA.  Party hard, and network like nuts.

*deep breath*  Today I learned that World Fantasy Convention will be held in Salt Lake City.  In November.  I've always wanted to go to a WorldFant, because that's my jam. 

If I didn't have everything else going on that year, I would have booked my tickets to Salt Lake and totally have gone. As it is, I don't know if I can. That really sucks. 

So yeah. All you convention committees, who have gone out of your way to arrange your convention schedules to fit my life...  Actually, you're not too bad. I appreciate all the hard work you've done to help further my career and allow me to attend conventions at a minimal cost to me. If it had been 2019 or 2021, I would have been all over that like baby oil on a bodice-ripper.

But as for those organising my 30th high school reunion?  You've got one chance to get things right. Kindly lift your eyes beyond your own scrub oak-strewn back yard, start thinking about life outside the Valley and consider that there are those of us who really, REALLY want to come to the reunion, who are sacrificing much (oh, sooo much!!) to reconnect with you.

I would really like if the reunion was sometime during the first half of July. Otherwise, late October/Early November looks good too.

August... really not a good time for me. Especially if you plan some tepid little picnic at some park and nothing else.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Creepy or cool: planetary nebulae that look like eyes

Here are several pictures of planetary nebulae.  Many of them look like eyes staring back at you. Is this creepy or cool?  Feel free to comment below.

A planetary nebula (plural: nebulae) has nothing to do with planets. Astronomers are strange when it comes to naming things. Oftentimes, an object or phenomena gets named because of what it looks like (or what astronomers think it is), only to be waaay off base. Planetary nebulae got their name because they looked like hazy planets in gentleman scientists' early homemade telescopes. Fr'ex, the Saturn Nebula, which looks like the planet Saturn.

Really, planetary nebulae are the ionised gas clouds that got expelled at the death of a low-mass star. Towards the end of its life, a star puffs up in its red giant phase, only later to blow away all that matter, leaving the slowly cooling corpse known as a white dwarf. That matter expands through the interstellar medium, glowing brightly from the energy radiated from the white dwarf.  Planetary nebulae don't last long, often only a mere five to fifty thousand years or so.

The Hourglass Nebula is looking at you. (credit:

The Helix Nebula is also looking at you.
This one is also known as the Eye of God.
(credit: Hubble Space Telescope)

The Cat's Eye Nebula is staring at you.
Did you use a can opener? (credit: The Stars and Planets)
Nebula ESO-456-67  is giving you the Evil Eye.
(credit: Sci Tech Daily)
This hazel eye stares right back at you, don't it?
(Credit: Hubble Space Telelscope)

This eye has a cataract. (credit: European Southern Observatory)

All hail the Hypnotoad! (credit: Observatorio de Sierra Nevada)

Sunday, 28 October 2018

I don't like Snickers bars

The most popular candy bar in the world is a Snickers bar. Everybody seems to love them.

Not me. I can't stand them.

I love a good Mars bar with its soft nougat and stringy caramel.  But when you throw peanuts into the mix, I'm outta here. (Don't get me wrong. I like peanuts. Just not in a Snickers bar. A Payday bar, Butterfinger, or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, no problem. But Snickers? Ew.)

Snickers bars have a weird taste to me.  Is it the peanuts with the nougat?  Peanuts with the caramel? Some strange synergy between all three?   (I wonder if there is a difference in the nougat recipe between a Mars bar and a Snickers?)

Every once in a while (usually in a moment of desperation), I'll try a Snickers bar. Every time I remember why I don't like it.  One of these fine days I'll do a proper experiment and analyse exactly what it is I don't like about a Snickers bar.

Over to you: Do you like or loathe a Snickers bar?  Why?

Her Grace will be handing out books and Tiny Teddies for Halloween. But absolutely no Snickers bars. At. All.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

TRR Year End Splash

Come party with me and my fellow authors at The Romance Reviews Year End Splash.

Games! Fun! Hundreds of prizes to be won, including a copy of my ghost love story from World War I,  The White Feather, published by The Wild Rose Press.

Who all's coming?

Tory Richards
Susan Carlisle
Jenna Jaxon
Tina Donahue
Dave Riese
Nichole D Evans
A. Zavarelli
Ilona Fridl
Peggy Jaeger
Lia Davis
Anne Barwell
Laura A. Barnes
Joanne Guidoccio
Maureen Bonatch
Sherri Fulmer Moorer
A P von K'Ory
Peiri Ann
Eva Gordon
Annie Hoff
Iyana Jenna
Avid Publishing LLC
Kenn Dahll
Claire Gem
Emma Leigh Reed
Nikki Brock
Harry F. Rey
Linda Tillis
P.T. Macias
Kristen Terrette
Krista Lakes
Lotchie Burton
G. L. Rockey
Skye McNeil
Marina Martindale
Marianne Petit
Sue Owens Wright
Anna-Marie Abell
M. Garnet
Lynn Shurr
Verna Clay
Erica Ridley
Marie Harte
Sharon Buchbinder
Marie Tuhart
Chris Karlsen
Tessa McFionn
Charlene Raddon
M. Lee Prescott
Dahlia Donovan
Katie Mettner
Ann Swann
Allie Ritch
P.L. Parker
Lynda Rees
Tinthia Clemant
Maggie Tideswell
Denise Carbo
Seelie Kay
Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku
T. Strange
Caroline Clemmons
PJ Friel
Lily Graison
Linda H. Bost
Dave Riese
Annie Rose Welch
Skye McNeil
Rachael Richey
Rose Wulf
Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Fiona Zedde
Joanne Sexton
Mary Martinez
Laurel Richards
Lynette Sofras
Jaye Frances
Sagan Morrow
Tanya Wilde
Marie Lavender
Tawna Fenske
Ella Quinn
Eleanor Webster
Saralee Etter
Anna Hague
CeeRee Fields
Phillip Vega
S. Peters-Davis
Seelie Kay
Linda H. Bost
JL Merrow
Arielle Hart and Andreas Beernt
Afton Locke
Lindsay Evans
Allyson Young
Ryan Jo Summers
Heidi Wessman Kneale  (me!)
Shiela Stewart
Cat Dubie
Aurrora St. James
Daryl Devore
Nana Prah
Margaret L. Carter
Daphne Dubois
Diane Saxon
Anne Kane
Pamela Woods-Jackson
NJ Damschroder
Leigh Podgorski
Grea Alexander
Stephen B King
Stacy Juba
Jana Richards
Tina Susedik
April Kelley
J.R. White
Elise Whyles
Shanna Hatfield
Julia London
Lorhainne Eckhart
Terri Osburn
Tiffany Reisz
Sarah Marsh
Donna Steele
DeAnn Smallwood
Jenn Langston
Kathleen Ball
Sara Harris
L. B. La Vigne
Lilli Carlisle
Faye Hall
Cassandra Dean
Jean C. Gordon
Lea Bronsen
Juli D. Revezzo
Mistral Dawn
Patricia Bates
Amber Daulton
Jamieson Wolf
Cheryl Phipps
Jaqui Wells
Iona Morrison
Carra Copelin
Sharon Karaa
Barbara Monajem
June Kramin
Larion Wills
Donna Dalton
Ann Herrick
January Bain
Stephanie Cage
Ariel Storm
Helen C. Johannes
L.D. Rose
Tanya Sands
Kristal Dawn Harris

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Happy Book Birthday - Part II

Happy Book Birthday
Bride of the Dark
Joining her sibling today
18 Oct 2018

To save everyone she knows and loves, Adrastea agreed to marry Mor-Lath, God of the Dark. But what does Mor-Lath get?

The mystery behind his reason for the marriage deepens as he introduces her to his priestesses, his library, and even the God of the Light. The only place he didn't introduce to her was his bed.

This baffles her. Without consummation, the marriage isn't complete in Adrastea's eyes, making her the bride, but not a wife.

Why did he marry her? An ancient prophecy provides both the reason and the reluctance of Mor-Lath when it comes to his bride, and that which he desires most could also be the one thing that destroys them both.

Where to buyAmazon | Books2Read (universal link to many of your favourite retailers)  

Her Grace is having triplets.

Thursday, 11 October 2018


God of the Dark, first book in the Of The Dark trilogy, is out today!

Adrastea, a simple country healer, is surprised to receive a marriage proposal from the Dark God Mor-Lath. As a devotee of a rival god, of course she turns him down. She was raised on chilling tales of this Chthonic being who drags the souls of the unrepentant to Dom-al-gol. Adrastea loves her simple country life of brewing medicines and saving lives. Marriage to Mor-Lath would greatly complicate things. Besides, why would the Dark God propose to her?

Undaunted by her refusal, Mor-Lath insists on courting her. Sometimes he is charming, winning over the other villagers, but other times, she sees him for the dark god he truly is. He refuses to let anyone stand in his way. While he makes it clear he'll only have her willingly, he's making it very difficult for her to say no. She wonders, what is he really after?

Adrastea faces a quandary: if she accepts the Dark God's marriage proposal, she'll lose her very soul. But if she rejects it, the world itself and everything in it might be at stake. Either way, the price is too high.

So celebrate with me and grab your copy today. Because this is a series leader, the launch price is a mere US$0.99. (If you were on my mailing list, you could have gotten it for free...)  You have no reason not to grab your copy today. However, do not procrastinate your well-meaning book buying, for the price won't remain at this forever.

| Amazon | Barnes & Noble (Nook) | Kobo Books | Books2Read | Smashwords | iBooks (Apple)Goodreads | ...pretty much wherever all good ebooks are sold.

For those who love the heft of a dead tree book in their hands, the trade paperback version will be released on 26 Oct 2018. If you don't want to splurge on your own paperback copy, please encourage your local library to order it.  ISBN: 978-0648422815  If you're Australian, I strongly encourage you to get your local library to order it, as Australian libraries need more Aussie authors on their shelves. Log in to your local library's web page and make a request from Overdrive or Bibliotheca, or ask that really nice librarian at the desk. Go for the one with cool coloured hair or the quirky dress sense (because they're awesome).

Her Grace celebrated with some lovely wood-smoked salmon for lunch, followed by a nice Cleobuttera molten lava mug cake.

P.S.: Congratulations, it's triplets! Head back here next week for more good news.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Audiobook fun and giveaways

I've just finished uploading the completed audiobook files for Her Endearing Young Charms to my distributor Findaway Voices.  They'll go through Quality Assurance (QA) and then, hopefully, be released to the world in a few weeks.

Thank goodness that project is out of the way. I've got a book birthday coming up on Thursday, then another one the week after that, then a third one by the end of the month.

While I was posting First Lines for God of the Dark, I slacked off (as you noticed), because life got really busy because book birthdays.  Let me know if you'd like me to finish them off, or if you don't care. Comments are our mutual friends.

After all, we've got a party on Thursday.

Meanwhile, everyone on my mailing list will get a free copy of God of the Dark this weekend in their preferred format (.epub or .mobi for Kindle). All I ask is that you leave an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, or the review site of your choice. Sign up for my mailing list now, if you're interested.

As soon as Her Endearing Young Charms is out in audiobook format, I'll have some free Audible codes (US or UK only) to be giving away to my peeps on the mailing list, because I love them bestest.

Her Grace has no idea what she's doing for NaNoWriMo.

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.

Friday, 31 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 13

Other people's problems: sometimes you've gotta chuck it in the f*ckit bucket.

Chapter 13: Natan left his personal self back at Ari's. He hoped he'd return soon to pick it up.

It's one thing to be Uncle Natan. It's another to be Natan Mayor.

Natan manages to keep his sanity by neatly separating the aspects of his two lives. He knows how serving family and serving community can be at odds.  He also knows that if he takes the worries of Sacred Spring too personally, they will eat him like a toddler eating free-range cake.

One of the tricks Natan has to relieve the burden is to place his worries in a little worry box next to his bed. One by one he'll dump them in there, if only to let him get some sleep. Yes, he has to open the sucker up first thing in the morning, but until then, he likes to have his nights worry-free.

Natan's compartmentalisation is probably his best coping tool for his job.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 12

Preliminary sketch for cover art.
Where does your fiancee take you on a date?

Chapter 12: In darkness, Adrastea's bare feet touched down on cold stone.

Mor-Lath's not really a dinner-anna-movie kind of guy. Nor is he always the kind of date who'll knock on the front door.

When he takes Adrastea out to pitch some woo, he likes to take her somewhere she's never been before.

And he has a good reason.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 11

Home is where the warmth is.
Where is the place you call home?

Chapter 11: Adrastea sat at Ari's kitchen table, a coal oil lamp the only light provided.

Adrastea, now a journeyman healer, had been Ari Healer's apprentice for many years. She'd spent more time with Ari than she did with her Mother Lillybet, especially during her adolescent years.

For those times when Adrastea can't turn to her mother, she had Ari, the woman who practically raised her.

Ari offers Adrastea a kind of stability. When Ari forms an opinion, she tends to hold onto it. When Ari's opinions align with Adrastea's goals, naturally Adrastea turns to her, knowing that Ari will have her back.

Well, most of the time. Ari's got her own issues as well.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 10

If it's the mayor's job to sort out Sacred Spring, whose job is it to sort out the mayor?

Chapter 10: Ari sat at Natan's table, close to his tiny stove.

Once upon a time a young Ari Healerprentice fell in love with a young Natan Weaverson. She had plans for this kind young man who'd caught her eye and her heart. She wanted to marry him, someday.

Imagine her heartbreak when he was offered an apprenticeship to the Mayor.

Mayors don't marry.

When this kind of thing happens, a young woman has three options:

  1. Give up on the love of your life.
  2. Break convention and marry him anyway, even if it means he can no longer be a mayorprentice.
  3.  ...

Ari made choice number three. A tiny corner of her heart regrets it, but not as much as it would have, had she made a different choice.

Her Grace wants to wish Richard Armitage a happy birthday. He would be offered first right of refusal for the role of Mor-Lath in a movie/tv adaption.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Science: Us Figuring Out the World

Hello random Internet user,

Chances are you are here because you read Natasha Hurley-Walker's excellent article "What is Space Made of? It's Complicated..."  It's really good, and not just because of my very simple explanation of the Periodic Table of the Elements for Astronomers.  (And here I was thinking you were here for my books.)

Anyhoo, astronomers really do classify the elements of the universe as Hydrogen, Helium and metals.  Everything that isn't H or He is called a 'metal'.  For those into etymology, this is rather ironic, as the word metal comes from the ancient Greek word m├ętallon, which means mine or quarry, suggesting that metals were something that were found, not made, like wood or wool or fire. In Astronomy, H and He are 'found', whereas metals were made by stars, in one way or another.

Various elements do have certain significance to astronomers for one reason or another.

The  CNO Cycle  is a fun one, and the Lithium Problem is another. The first goes to show us how much we know about the Universe, while the second shows us how little we know.

Probably our most interesting use of the metals in astronomy is through the observation of spectral lines.  Astronomy is almost purely an observational science, with very, very little hands-on experience. Pretty much everything we know about the universe has come because the information came to us, usually in the form of variances in the EM spectrum. As energy moves through the universe, the universe acts upon it, either by bending it, dilating it, or absorbing/re-emitting it.

Matter in the universe tends to absorb or emit at certain frequencies. If we find spectral lines that we know match up with certain elements, then we know that element is present.

Each and every elements does have a particular significance, and we're quite grateful for that mere 1-2% of non-hydrogen and non-helium in existence, which allows us to learn so much about our universe.

But yeah, ask an astronomer about the periodic table of the elements, and they're all, Hydrogen, Helium, and.... everything else.

The spectrum of the Sun, showing absorption lines, demonstrating its metallicity.
The Sun is a Population I star, meaning it's rather metallic, aka, it's full of dirt.

More into astronomy and not so much into Romance novels? I have posted astronomy posts, including an A to Z series about Astronomy.  Go ahead and read those.  Otherwise, go read my novels. I've got three more out in October.

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 9

What to do when the buck stops at you?

Chapter 9: Natan sighed as he left Lillybet's house.

Poor Natan Mayor. It's his job to keep Sacred Spring together. The last thing he needs is to have to deal with family as well.  Traditionally, mayors do not marry. Their lives are dedicated to serving their village. A family would only be a distraction.

But what about the drama of a family into which you were born?  Both Natan Mayor and Lillybet Weaver's parents are dead (as is Lillybet's husband). For the longest time their family had consisted of brother and sister.

Now that Adrastea has picked up an unwanted suitor, Natan is torn between doing what's best for his niece, and doing what's best for Sacred Spring. What might happen if those two goals do not align?

Thursday, 16 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 8

Sometimes change can be difficult.

Chapter 8: Mikal still felt like one of the Innkeepers' brood.

Mikal, Adrastea's younger brother, had been fostered out as an infant to the only other breastfeeding mother in Sacred Spring, Marta Innkeeper.

Marta and Lillybet never got along, so there's a whole lotta bad blood there. It wasn't so much the fact that Mikal was fostered out that bothers Lilly so, as much as it is that it was Marta to whom he went. This caused a good decade of drama.

But now that change has come to the village, stirring up dusty old ways, Lillybet's thought process has shifted about, and she finally comes up with a plan for her son.

Sometimes drama has its uses for obfuscating what's really going on behind the scenes.

Monday, 13 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 7

There are two ways of learning things: the easy way and the hard way.

Chapter 7: Adrastea had learned caution.

Sometimes one can grow complacent. This does not always serve one well when the unexpected rises up. The habits and trust of a sleepy village can be a detriment when a stranger comes to town.

If someone knocks on your door, sometimes it's best to call out, "Who is it?" before opening the door.

Friday, 10 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 6

Not everyone reacts the same way to the same news.

Chapter 6: Adrastea looked at her mother, whose hazel eyes burned with a desire to know.

Tell five different people the same news and they'll react five different ways. Just because you might consider something horrific doesn't mean someone else might not express morbid curiosity.

Everyone's world view is different, even people who were raised in the same village. Adrastea's shared her dilemma with the four people closest to her. Each one reacted differently, and each have offered their version of advice, some of it possibly contrary.  The one thing they are united on is that they must stand together against Mor-Lath. 

The whys behind their unity are not the same.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 5

WikiHow can teach you how to sneak out.
When bad things happen, one does not usually broadcast the fact.

Chapter 5: Mira slipped out of Ari's house as quietly as she could, into the back garden.

Being a story, bad things happen and they're getting worse. While it is a good idea to enlist the help of a few trusted souls when one's life goes snafu, it is a bad idea to broadcast your problems willy-nilly. Your business is not everyone's business, nor should it be. There's just some things that certain people don't need to know. Adrastea trusted Mira the village priestess with her secret, knowing that Mira would keep it safe. After all, this knowledge in the wrong hands could be very dangerous.

Sometimes a secret can be an additional burden for the person to whom it is delivered. I wonder if this is why some people can't keep secrets; the burden is too great for them to bear alone.

For Mira, she considers the nature of the secret and ponders its significance. Being the spiritual and moral leader of the village of Sacred Spring, it is up to her to be knowledgeable about the ways of the Light. Only now does she consider that maybe she needs to be more knowledgeable of the ways of the Dark, especially if she is going to stand up to the Dark God.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 4

By Taleides as potter (signed), Taleides Painter -
Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011), CC BY 2.5
Like the Greek nymph Adrasteia, one can care for a child, even if that child is not of one's body.

Chapter 4: Adrastea sat alone at Ari's dinnertable, her bowl of food before her untouched.

In the village of Sacred Spring, where Adrastea lives, fostering children is a common practice. In their part of the world spring sickness often sweeps through. In some years many people die, often leaving children orphaned. They are taken up by other families and treated as their own. Fostering isn't only for the orphaned. If a parent finds themselves incapable of caring for their offspring, for whatever reason, that child can be handed over to a trusted friend or family member to care for them until the parent is able to resume their duties.

Lillybet had a tragedy in her life that required the handing over of her children to someone else. Adrastea went to Ari, as Ari had already offered to take Adrastea as an apprentice later. Adrastea's brother Mikal went somewhere else.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

First Sentences: God of the Dark Chapter 3

What do you do when things go bad? You run to your momma.
Adrastea, moon of Jupiter,
and the first Adrastea I fell in love with.

Chapter 3: It was easy for Lillybet to keep the secret.

No one should have to face tragedy alone. After Adrastea received one of the biggest shocks of her life, she seeks out the nearest safe haven: her mother Lillybet's house.

Lilly's no stranger to hard times. Who better to listen to Adrastea, support her, and give her comfort than her experienced mother? Lillybet has learned the hard way that what a person needs during hard times is love and unconditional support. This she gives to her daughter.

In Greek Mythology, Adrasteia was the foster mother of Jupiter. Rhea had charged the nymph Adrasteia to watch over her infant son and protect him from Cronus, who had a habit of eating his children.