Friday, 30 October 2020

Release date: CURRENTLY UNCHAPERONED - 13 January 2021

 I've got my release date for CURRENTLY UNCHAPERONED, the first book in the Currently Charmed series, out from The Wild Rose Press.

13 January 2021

I'll be talking much about this on social media over the next few months.  #CurrentlyUnchaperoned

Friday, 14 August 2020

Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2020: Love in Isolation - Mid-way Report

 Hello Australian Romancelandia, and to the rest of the world watching us having fun,

Here is a brief and incomplete mid-way report for my experiences at the #RWAus20 #LoveInIsolation virtual conference, being held Not-In-Fremantle Western Australia.

First of all, kudos to this year's committee, many of whom I know in-person, for dealing with These Times and the wrench These Times have thrown in the plans of the whole world. They took an in-person conference and converted it to a virtual conference with grace and elan. I've been a SMoF. I know what it's like to run a con this size, and all the problems that come with it. For a never-done-before conversion to a new format, it's been successful in the delivery. Granted, there have been a few minor hiccups, but these have been dealt with in a timely manner. You guys have been so impressive! Overall, things have worked, and I haven't seen an issue crop up that was unsolvable.

I am hoping that future RWAus conferences will consider keeping an element of the virtual conference by recording live in-person sessions and making them available online to those who are unable to attend the full conference. I'd love to see in-person membership and a virtual membership options. That way, if one is unable to fly to the other side of the country for the full convention, one does not have to miss out entirely.

_ _ _ _ _

But yeah. Enough about that.  Here's what I've gotten out of the conference so far:

Liz Pelletier's "Best-Seller" workshop, parts 1,2,3 plus Q&A

Ogmigosh, you guyz!!  Soo much good info!!!  Absolutely NO ONE watching even one session of this workshop couldn't help but level up.

What are the elements that make a novel a best-seller?  Liz told us. She took things apart, showed us how they worked and then put them back together. She told us what the important things were an author needed to focus on, and which petty things we didn't need to sweat.

Session 1 was about the writing. Session 2 was about editing. Session 3 was the marketing. I took so many, many notes. I will also watch the replays and take more notes. Then I shall apply the notes. If I can't take all the good info Liz scooped out upon our heads and make some serious Trout money from my next three books, it will be all my fault.

This workshop alone was worth the whole convention price.

Doctor Love Panel.  A whole lotta PhDs tell us about writing about Romance from Academia. I had no idea Romance Studies was a thing. Now I know what I want to do my PhD in.  (But lemmie finish  my MSci first. one more semester...)

Estate Planning.  Morgan Solomon, an art historian turned attorney explains the value of a good will and why a good will is important regarding your Intellectual Property (IP).  Note to self: update my will.

Getting Started in Self-Publishing.  Gone are the days when you could be a purely traditional author with a Random Penguin.  Many authors are either going hybrid, or turning to indie publishing for their entire careers. Elizabeth Stevens gave us the lowdown of what you need to know to get into self publishing and be successful. Even though I've had a hybrid side to my career for a few years now, I still learned a few new things.

Getting Ahead in Indie Publishing. Kevin Tumlinson of Draft2Digital adds on to what Elizabeth started. While I've been with D2D as part of my hybrid side, I learned of even more tools I should be taking advantage of. Author Page. I should use that more. Plus there are a few more bells and whistles I need to investigate. 

My personal business meeting with Ricardo Fayet of Reedsy.  One of the advantages of a RWAus conference is the availability of one-on-one business meetings with an industry professional. These can range from pitch sessions with a literary agent or editor to a business consultation with a pro. For me, Ricardo had a look at my author web presence and offered some good and useful advice to help me improve. Some of his advice bolstered up a few things I was already thinking. Other advice he gave me was stuff I hadn't even considered. But now he's  mentioned it, I see it for what it is and will be implementing it soon. Soo glad I met with him.

_ _ _ _ _

And now I'm out of time, for the next session is starting online.  I've taken over the home theatre, and am streaming the conference on my wide-screen projector.  

More later. Meanwhile, I'm off to have Carleton Chinner show me how to master plot structures.

Friday, 6 March 2020

The Rules for Books in the Toilet

Dear Australia,

I know you're currently suffering a massive toilet paper shortage. You've stripped all supermarket shelves clean. However will you wipe your butts?

A travesty, I know.

What you may not know, having been the Lucky Country for so long, and have previously had a never-ending supply of Sorbent or Quilton, that once upon a time, people didn't always use bog rolls for keeping the nether regions clean.

In 19th Century United States, last season's Sears catalogue and last year's Farmer's Almanac were traditionally found in Ye Olde Outhouse. Even in the 20th Century, the poorer people around the world made do with yesterday's newspapers for their doo-doo.

But now, with the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, will you turn to...

Books? *gasp*

While literary types and regular patrons of Elizabeth's might be falling into a swoon, let's face it. It might come to that. If you do choose a mighty tome to replace the long-lost toilet roll, please follow these rules:

  1. Remember, everyone is reading the same book. Please be considerate.
  2. For every loo visit, you must read x + 1 pages, where x = the number of people in your household. This rule also applies for men popping in for a pee. Yeah, you might not be using any pages, but if you don't keep up, you might miss out on a scene.
  3. You are allowed only ONE PAGE from the book for wiping. Otherwise, your housemates may hunt you down and see how good your memory is.  Remember, if you use more than one page, they might not have read up that far. 
  4. ONLY TEAR FROM THE FRONT OF THE BOOK!!!  It is a travesty to tear from the back of the book. They who wipe their butt with the climax of the story before its time ruins the ending for all.

Just saying, my novel God of the Dark is available in print and currently is cheaper than a pack of toilet paper. Also unlike a pack of toilet paper, you can actually buy a copy. (I swear, TP can't be had for love nor money off most Australian grocery store shelves.)

Okay, so what if you buy the even cheaper ebook version of God of the Dark but you still need to keep clean?

Here's how to use newspaper instead:

  1. Fetch in that free Community Newspaper some poor kid keeps leaving on your driveway. Be sure to get it before your Watering Days or your neighbour pinches it.
  2. Open it up and press each sheet with a hot iron. No, really. Ironing your newspaper will set the ink and prevent it from leaving inky black streaks in your nethers.
  3. Pre-cut newspaper into squares. Tearing it at time of use is only a recipe for disaster.
  4. Just before wiping, give the newspaper several rounds of crinkling up. This will open the fibers and improve the absorption properties.
  5. Don't flush it! Your sewer system really can't handle it. Please dispose of thoughtfully in the trash can. I recommend a sealed bucket, if the scent of the tissue may become bothersome.

Her Grace is sorely wishing she'd installed a bidet when Kneale Manor was built.

Monday, 6 January 2020

I think we invented a cocktail

I don't drink. Never have, and don't plan to in the future. I grew up in a teetotaler culture and now that I live somewhere that's known for its alcohol consumption (aka Australia), I discovered a social thread that says it's okay to not drink alcohol when out with the mates. The famous Australian Lemon, Lime & Bitters is the drink you drink when you don't want to drink. Everywhere makes it, everyone drinks it.

But sometimes you want something different. Mocktails are always served alongside alcoholic drinks, but they are often sweet, fruity and a little OTT.

Sometimes you want something subtle and sophisticated.

Enter the Cucumber Ginger Fizz.

I discovered this drink last year when I was asked to come up with some mocktail recipes for a High School Prom pre-party. A few of the students weren't into the sweetie-fruitie drinks, and asked if I could come up with something different.

A quick google gave me several different recipes for many fun things, but this recipe for a Cucumber Ginger syrup was the winner of the night.

I had a half-bottle left over from that night, and forgot to drink it.

Then came Boxing Day.

His Grace has a set of wonderful friends from his University days. One of their annual traditions is "The Box on Boxing Day" party.  During their school days, they had a Box, which contained everyone's alcohol. Each person would contribute something different. By pooling their poor student resources, they were able to enjoy a wide variety of adult beverages.

Over the years the collection grew, as it got added to and forgotten about, until it had a bar's worth of various liquors, cordials, etc. There's even a bottle of  'genuine' absinthe in there, and a bottle of grenadine, my personal favourite. (I'm a sucker for a good Shirley Temple, if made with ginger beer.)

This year, I remembered the half-bottle of Cucumber Ginger Syrup lying dormant in my fridge, and I brought it along, in hopes that someone would realise its potential.

Initially I made mocktails for people to try. "Hmm," said one mate. "This would go really well with gin."

I'll take your word for it. So, we mixed up a drink, garnished it with a cucumber slice, and the drinkers gave it a go.

Gin for the win!  Everyone loved it.  Did we just invent a cocktail?

Apparently, we did. I went home after the party and attempted to look up the actual name of this new-ish drink we discovered. Surely someone else had come across it before?

Yes and no.  While we came across similar drinks, like the Mule, no recipe I found duplicated its flavours exactly.  They either had lime or mint or both, which changes the aromatic profile enough to make them sibling drinks, but not the same.

So yeah. We invented the Boxing Day Special. You're welcome.



Cucumber Ginger Syrup

1 medium cucumber, grated
1 knob of fresh ginger, grated
2 c sugar
2 c water

Combine sugar and water together in a saucepan and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. (This is Simple Syrup, and is often used in cocktails to give a sweetness without the grittiness of granulated sugar.)

Place grated cucumber and ginger in a bowl. Pour the hot simple syrup over and let steep for 2-3 hours.

Strain and bottle until needed. Keeps in the fridge for several weeks.

This Cucumber Ginger Syrup is versatile ingredient for drinks. Combine it 1:3 with soda water for a sophisticated mocktail, or go fully adult with this recipe for a Boxing Day Special.

Boxing Day Special

In a highball glass, combine:

2 shots Cucumber Ginger Syrup
2 shots London Dry Gin
Top up with soda water (approx 2-4 shots). Garnish with a cucumber slice.

Sip sophisticatedly.

And that's it. It's a simple recipe that delivers a broad palate with a flavour journey of cool cuke, hot ginger and aromatic juniper.

* * *

Here's an interesting fact I learned on Boxing Day: garnishes aren't just to make the drink look pretty. Sometimes they're used to add an extra aromatic note to the drink. For example, the gang made Mint Juleps. The mint itself didn't get blended in. We blitzed up some ice, poured over a nice Honey Bourbon, then pushed in a long sprig of mint. Then to drink, you bruised the mint, inhaled and then sipped. The mint was scented, not tasted, and this apparently changed the nature of how a drinker experienced the bourbon without affecting the flavour.

The cucumber garnish in a Boxing Day Special gives you the initial scent of cucumber, which then lifts more cuke flavour from the drink, so you get the full experience.  

The things you learn.

Her teetolling Grace will trust that this truly is a nice drink, and not her friends being nice to her. After all, they were not afraid to completely pan her attempts at a home-brewed apple cider a few years prior.