Author Spotlight: M.A Robbins

This month’s Author Spotlight features M.A Robbins.


Interview with M.A Robbins

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve lived in Anchorage, Alaska with my family for the past 33 years. I came up with the Air Force, which I separated from in 1991. Since then, I’ve had many different creative and non-creative jobs, including computer programming, project management, IT management, training, magician, comedian, mentalist, and singer-songwriter.

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Author Spotlight: Mercedes Fox

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This month’s Author Spotlight features Mercedes Fox.


Interview with Mercedes Fox

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m just a girl with a dream, married to the best man in the world and proud mom to 3 dogs.

2. When did you first start writing?
I’ve been writing since childhood but didn’t become serious about it until about 4 years ago.

3. Do you outline your novel before you start writing or do you prefer to just begin and see where your ideas take you?
I’ve still not grasped the concept of outlining. I have a good idea and then as things come up I make notes but mostly I’m a pantser.

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Author Spotlight: E.J Fisch

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This month’s Author Spotlight features E.J Fisch, author of the Ziva Payvan series.


Interview with EJ Fisch

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, world! I’m EJ Fisch, indie sci fi author, artist, and huge nerd. I first decided to publish almost exactly two years ago, and since then I’ve released three full-length novels, an omnibus edition of that series, and a collection I’ve collaborated on with two other sci fi authors (more on all of that in a bit!). This has been a great adventure, and after spending years being self-conscious and hiding my writing from the world, it’s been incredibly liberating to finally share it with everyone. I’ve loved getting to know other writers and readers from all around the world, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Author Spotlight: Quoleena Sbrocca

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This month’s Author Spotlight features Quoleena Sbrocca whose novel Rayne: Luminescence (Rayne Trilogy #1) is released today!


Interview with Quoleena Sbrocca

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Denver native. I live in the city with my husband and our two boys, age 10 and 2. I went to San Diego State University where I was a dance major. 10 years later, I earned an MFA in photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I’ve always loved creative writing. By the time I was a senior in college, I knew I wanted to write a book. It was sort of on my bucket list, because I never had a idea for one until the summer of 2014. Now I’ve published my third!

2. When did you first start writing?
The first creative writing I did was an illustrated book in 4th grade. It won a school prize, and they had it professionally bound for me. I still have it.

3. Do you outline your novel before you start writing or do you prefer to just begin and see where your ideas take you?
For this one, I had the basic concept and world building in notes, just to make those ideas tangible. I knew how the book was going to start and end. I also had a couple plot points planned. Beyond that, I just sat down and typed and let it flow wherever it wanted. My original ideas and the first draft are very different from the finished product, and I love that. Since this was fantasy, I thought that writing it free like this and let the story go where it wanted fit perfectly. For my first two novels, in addition to all the historical research, I knew how it would begin and end. I also plotted each chapter as I went along, hitting some plot ideas along the way. I think I prefer the freedom of writing it and seeing where it goes. I’ll definitely do it this way again for the second book in the Rayne trilogy.

4. Do you set aside a specific time to write each day?
I’m usually able to devote time each day to writing. Some days I spend a few hours, others I only have time to write a few pages. If a day passes without working on my book, it means I’m either super busy or super exhausted.

5. Tell us a little about Rayne: Luminescence?
This is the first book in a true trilogy. It covers one week of Rayne’s life. When we first meet her, she has no community purpose in life, because she has no higher ability. In their society, everyone’s job relates to what their ability is, whether they use it directly or not. Since she has no ability, her colony has no idea what to do with her. In actuality, it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to figure it out; it’s really a matter of her being so incredibly different that they choose to ostracize her instead of embracing her. To them, she’s more like the Homo sapiens. They consider themselves a more advanced species because they have these abilities. Since she doesn’t, she’s beneath them, and they don’t want anything to do with her. Of course, not everyone in her colony thinks this way.

So the book is all about Rayne discovering a new reality for herself and needing answers as to why it’s all happening 15 years late. We learn about her world as she goes from place to place. I think teenagers have a tendency to experience their world in terms of their surroundings or learning about it in school. I wanted to play on that, so the world opens up as she goes from one place to another.

By the end, she knows what she needs to do to learn the reasons for all this. Whether her path to do so is direct or not, I suppose is a good question. By the end of the book, we’ll have a good idea of where book two will go. It’ll be a completely different book than Luminescence, and I can’t wait to get cracking.

6. How long did it take you to write Rayne: Luminescence?
I started writing it in August 2015, and I completed the final version in February. My first book took 6 months as well. Once I start writing, I’m obsessed, and I spend all my free time on it. The first two drafts take the longest of all the rounds of revisions/editing – around six week each.

7. Who is your favourite character?
My favourite Luminescence character to write was Rayne’s dad, Roman. I didn’t want him to be just distant with her. I wanted to hint at layers and good intentions beneath his attitude and to show that perhaps he’s distant with her because someone else tends to get in the way of him bonding with her (her only friend, Rafe). My favourite character overall might be Sir Theo. I’d love to have a sort of mentor like that. Diamond was fun to write, too. I wonder what secret she’s keeping!

8. What can we look forward to next from you?
I will begin working on book 2 of the Rayne Trilogy, “OuterSphere,” this spring. I hope to have it published by the end of the year. After that, I will either complete the trilogy or revisit my time travel series. There’s one book left in that one. I put it on the back burner, because I had an idea for this YA futuristic utopian world. Once both series are complete, who knows what I’ll write next. I stop myself whenever I start thinking too far ahead, because I don’t want to put these on hold for something new.

Quoleena Sbrocca online:

Website: http://www.quoleenasbrocca.com
Twitter: @QJSbrocca
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/10792088.Quoleena_Sbrocca

PURCHASE LINKS:
BN.com http://bit.ly/1P54PUZ
KOBO.com http://bit.ly/1PKHExN
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1Q3NZ3a
Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/23Tiy5U
Amazon.co.ca http://amzn.to/1Rjg4J4
Smashwords http://bit.ly/20koWPc


Rayne: Luminescence Excerpt:

As its path circles above me. I sense its essence—his essence. He must be scouting his meal. I imagine stroking the silky feathers and soaring through the clouds, far above everyone I know. Though I know he will not hear me, I close my eyes. A smile creeps to my lips, and I whisper, “Fly to me, Master Eagle. Carry me from this place.”

When I open my eyes, his beak is pointed downward. He appears to fly toward me. I imagine he has heard me.

He must be searching for prey. I sink lower on the branches. He is closer now. His eyes seem to be fixed upon me. I hold my breath and remain still. He dives closer. He grows larger. I am encompassed in the shadow of his greatness.

He dives closer still, and I descend to a lower branch. He flies straight to me as if I am his prey. I hear the sound of my shriek ringing in my ears. I scramble down a few branches. Suddenly, I am terrified.

I hold my breath. He levels his path. A mighty wind parts the leaves, forcing the branches to bow in the wake of his massive, flapping wings.

I am exposed.

His piercing, golden eyes stare down at me. His talons hover above me. I think he means to grab me. I force myself to remain still. Descending will only give him further cause for pursuit.

He lowers himself, flapping his wings to hover in the clearing. His body and wings devour the open space. He stares at me, tilting his head up and down…almost as if he is nodding.

He drifts closer. He is within my reach. My fright shifts to wonder. I do not think. I act.

I lift a wondering hand and graze his silky feathers. He lowers himself further, and I extend my arm. I stroke his plumy chest, and he ruffles his neck feathers. I catch his scent. He smells of the winds and the Earth. He smells of solitude and freedom.

My lips part, and I whisper, “Salvē, Master Eagle. You heard me?”

He ruffles his feathers and dips his head as if he is motioning, yes.

“May I stroke your beak?”

He flaps his wings and lowers himself so his beak meets my extended hand. As I offer a few strokes, I confess my yearning. “I long to soar with you, Master Eagle.”

The tip of his beak grazes my hand when he turns from me. He does not depart. He presents his back, spreads his wings, and jerks his beak to the sky. I understand him. He is granting my wish.

I do not think.

I climb onto his broad back and wrap my arms around him. I close my eyes, and then I drink the wind.


 

10792088About Quoleena Sbrocca
My name is Quoleena Sbrocca. (If you try to pronounce it too fast, you’ll likely get a brain freeze. Kwo-LEE-nuh Su-BROH-kuh). I’m a Denver native. I went to San Diego State University as a dance major then earned an MFA in Photography from The Academy of Art University. If you’re interested in checking out my photography, you can visit my website: http://www.sbroccaphotography.com.

I’ve always loved creative writing. I realized I wanted to write a book during my senior year in college. It only took 14 years for me to try. Truth is, I never had an idea for one until August 2014. Before I even completed that first draft, I “knew” I only had one story to tell. Then that story became a series, and now I can’t stop writing. The ideas just keep coming.

The obsession is real.

Author Spotlight: Ben Starling

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This month’s Author Spotlight features Ben Starling whose novel Something in the Water is released today!


 

Interview with Ben Starling

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m half English, half American and have lived in the UK since I was a child, though I visit the States whenever I can. I have a soft spot for the Florida Keys and New York City (my family come from there).

I’ve always been passionate about water—be it river, lake or ocean. I’m drawn to it: by its depths, mysteries and the creatures that call it home. At other times I’m busy with my marine-themed art, keeping fit (swimming and hiking) or plotting the next scene for a novel or short story.

2. When did you first start writing?
The loss of my partner at forty-five years of age to ovarian cancer in 2012, just thirteen weeks after her diagnosis, was the real impetus behind my picking up a pen and contemplating the infinite emptiness of a Word doc. In the aftermath of her death, an old friend had challenged me to turn my grief into something positive.

Faced with an experience of that magnitude, one wants answers—or even an inkling—as to what happens to us after death. And I had none. Remembering a conversation with a charismatic Polynesian fisherman (I visited there once) about his people’s vision of death and the afterlife, however, I began to write. I hoped to explore and capture several extraordinary events that happened around the time of my girlfriend’s death. The novel and the series kind of took off from there…

3. Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Well, it a rather long list! I suppose it all started when my mother read me Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. I was completely captivated by the story, the setting and the enormous marlin.

At school I was introduced to the classics: Dickens, Shakespeare and especially, Austen–I particularly admire Austen’s brilliant characterizations. And Maeve Binchy, of course, is a master of the elegant story structure.

 4. How long did it take you to complete your first novel?
The first draft of Something in the Water took about a year to complete. Then I spent many months refining it. It has three complex, interwoven plots and couldn’t be rushed. Agonising months, but also delicious.

 5. Tell us a little about Something in the Water?
It’s fundamentally a love story—with a bit of adventure in the tropics thrown in too. Here’s the blurb:

The sealed box Teal finds in the street contains more than just a mystery…

What if to be with the man of your dreams…you had to give up your life? On the verge of losing her job, side-lined journalist Teal is forced to travel to the South Pacific to profile a powerful businessman. But with her almost-but-not-quite fiancé Bear discouraging her every step of the way, she may not be able to save her career or her relationship.

When corporate criminals invade paradise, Teal teams up with a former boxer turned marine-biologist to investigate. As she discovers the true intentions behind their new canning operations, she must either accept the plum promotion that will save her career or—with Perry—defend the island with more than her life.

Something in the Water, An Ocean Romance is available on Amazon from today, January 21, 2016. 

6. What is your favourite scene or part?
That’s a difficult one—all three of the plots reach more than one peak before combining in an unexpected denouement.

I must say I’m pleased though with the first appearance of the utterly appalling Edward…a man blissfully unaware of his social shortcomings. And ocean lovers should enjoy when the heroine encounters her first whale. Tthere’s comedy too, with a delightful blue-footed booby, named Violet. Oh, did I mention the sprinkling of magic? And love?

 7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their first novel?
As the saying goes, nothing good is ever written. Only rewritten.  And while writing and rewriting, I believe the sure-fire super-highway to inspiration is best accessed through a first rate muse. I recommend Great Danes.

My late (great) Great Dane, Edington, continues to send me inspiration on a regular basis. She was the most eternally curious individual I’ve ever met. (And incidentally, a superb dancer.) While watching her play and explore the woods near my house, I learned to look at the world in new and spectacular ways. So today whenever an exciting idea pops into my consciousness, I still credit Edington. I know she’s somewhere nearby, watching over me, sending me all those lovely plot twists.

I suppose a Chihuahua or Labradoodle might work too. But I, for one, will always swear by Great Danes.

 8. What can we look forward to next from you?
Something in the Water will be supported by a series of short stories that reveal the backstories of the major characters in this world.

The first in the series, Something in the Air, is available now free at my website and on Kobo (and also Amazon) and the second short story in the series, Something on the Fly, will be released in the Spring!

Ben Starling Online:

Websitewww.ben-starling.com

Twitterwww.twitter.com/benstarlingauth
Facebookwww.facebook.com/authorbenstarling / www.facebook.com/ben.starling.author
Amazon: www.amazon.com/author/benstarling
Pinterestwww.pinterest.com/benstarlingauth
Instagram: www.instagram.com/benstarlingauthor
Googlewww.google.com/+benstarlingauthor
Tumblrwww.benstarlingauthor.tumblr.com
YouTubewww.youtube.com/user/benstarlingauthor
Blogwww.bloglovin.com/benstarling
Goodreadswww.goodreads.com/ben-starling


 

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Something in the Water Excerpt

New York, September
He didn’t look like the hotel guests, the business people, or the tourists. He didn’t move like them either.

He brushed past me as I climbed off my Vespa, stilettos in hand, outside the entrance of the Waldorf Astoria. Had he smiled at the radiance of my scarlet ball gown? Or was he amused by my battered Converse sneakers?

As a valet approached to take my scooter and helmet, I spotted my boss, Malcolm, waving hello from the lobby. He was approaching the glass doors that separated us when I noticed a small wooden box on the ground. Two steps later, I had picked it up. Who could have dropped it?

No one was close by, so I turned. The only man who’d passed me was already a half block away, gliding beside the cars that waited for the lights to change at the end of the block. Was it his?

What I knew for sure was that now wasn’t the time to be tracking down the little box’s owner. I should hand it in to reception and concentrate on the evening ahead. For a few seconds, I relaxed as I studied the hotel’s confident, soaring opulence—a world unknown to me before my arrival from Nantucket four years ago. The smooth texture of the box, however, drew my thoughts back to it. Was there something valuable inside? What if it did belong to that man, and he never returned to collect it? I turned the box over—and caught my breath.

“How on earth…?”

Malcolm emerged in front of me. “Hello, darling, you look absolutely—are you okay?”
I thrust my sparkly evening shoes into his hands, and hitched up my shawl. I was about to give chase when a convertible Ferrari lurched to a stop beside me.

“Going my way, babe?” its driver shouted, over the thrum of the engine.

But my dress was redder, and I got the better start.

You can find the rest of Something in the Water, Chapter 1 at http://ben-starling.com/chapter-one/


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About Ben Starling
Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively until about five years ago. He is 6’3”and 185 lbs. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.

Author Spotlight: Lyssa Chiavari

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This month’s Author Spotlight features Lyssa Chiavari whose debut novel Fourth World (The Iamos Trilogy) (Volume 1) is released today!

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Interview with Lyssa Chiavari

1. Please tell us a little about yourself?
I write young adult science fiction and fantasy. Up until now, my published works have mostly been short fiction/novellas, so I’m excited to branch into longer form storytelling with my first novel, Fourth World! When I’m not writing, I enjoy playing video games and exploring the woods near where I live in the Pacific Northwest.

2. When did you first start writing?
I started writing for fun pretty much as soon as I learned how to write, but I didn’t start writing professionally until about two years ago, when I started submitting my short fiction to different magazines hoping I could get something published!

3. Which authors have most influenced your writing?
Catherine Fisher is probably the biggest influence on me—I love her style of blending science fiction and fantasy, focusing on characters and relationships without a huge emphasis on romance. I also love Meg Cabot’s humor and sarcasm, and I feel like that was also a big influence for me when writing Fourth World.

4. How long did it take you to complete your first novel?
I worked on it on and off for about three years, but the first couple were just floating it around in my mind, writing occasional scenes here and there. I started really buckling down on it in January, so I’d say about a year.

5. Tell us a little about Fourth World?
Fourth World is a YA sci-fi adventure set on Mars near the end of the twenty-first century. It follows a teenage boy named Isaak who’s growing up in the Martian colony and accidentally uncovers a government conspiracy involving alien archaeology, time travel and more.

6. What is your favourite scene or part?
I don’t want to give away too much, but I think my favorite part is Chapter 21. As an asexual writer trying to increase ace representation in YA fiction, it hit home for me on a personal level as I was writing it, and I hope it will resonate with readers as well. One reviewer commented that that chapter was like “a punch in the gut”—in a good way— so I’ll take that as a good sign!

7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their first novel?
Do as much research as you can to figure out what it is you really want from a publishing career! There’s no one path, not even for one person—I’m a firm believer in hybrid publishing, and every book is going to take a different direction. For Fourth World, I knew pretty early on that I was going to focus on indie publishing with this series. But even once you make the decision between traditional, small press and indie, there are still a number of other things to take into consideration (such as Amazon-exclusive or wide distribution? Or hard launch or soft launch? etc), so make sure you do your homework and figure out what your goals are and how best to achieve them! A good starting point would be Susan Kaye Quinn’s Indie Author Survival Guide—that book was a lifesaver for me!

8. What can we look forward to next from you?
I’m working on a few different projects right now: first up is the sequel to Fourth World, as well as a tie-in novella (I call it Book 1.5) that’s scheduled for release between books one and two. I’m also going to be editing a sci-fi fairytale anthology with Jaylee James, editor of Vitality magazine, that’s opening for submissions in just a few days. 2016 is looking to be pretty busy, so I’m hoping I can keep up with everything!

Lyssa Chiavari Online:
Website: www.lyssachiavari.com
Twitter: @lyssachiavari
Facebook: www.facebook.com/lyssachiavariauthor
Fourth World on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25555364-fourth-world
Purchase link via Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fourth-World-Iamos-Trilogy-1/dp/1519496338/

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Excerpt from Fourth World

The sky looked red.
That was all I could think as I gazed out over the desiccated plain. The once-gray rocks and boulders, strewn about the old dry coastline, were now almost completely covered with rust. Orange-tinged clouds swirled above my head, the air thick with choking dust kicked up by the harsh wind that raked over the parched ground.
Even though we’d been forbidden to leave the safety of the citidome, I’d decided to take the risk that night. I had wanted to see the sunset—really see the sunset—for what could be the last time. It had been so long since I’d seen the sky, I couldn’t remember what it looked like.
But I certainly hadn’t expected it to be so red.
The oxygen was too thin. It made breathing difficult, painful. I couldn’t believe how quickly it was depleting now, at the end. Last year on my annual we’d still been able go outside. But now we had to huddle in our enclosed cities, looking out at the world through the tinted filter of smooth blue glass. And even that option wouldn’t last much longer. The world really was ending.
It was much too soon. This was the first day of my eighth year, my enilikin. I still had my whole life ahead of me. I hadn’t even completed my schooling yet, thanks to Gitrin. It would be at least another year, now, before I was ready to take my place in the ranks of the geroi.
But in their last report, the scientists said that our planet couldn’t sustain us another year. My heart stuck in my throat at the thought. Standing here, looking at this, I knew it to be true. Sometime in the next six-hundred days the last of our atmosphere would be gone. The energy sources used to power the citidome would be entirely depleted. And if the colony on Hamos wasn’t stabilized—if we didn’t complete evacuation by that time—we’d all be dead.
I’d be dead. Before I even got a chance to live.
We needed more geroi. And still she told me I wasn’t ready. Everything was so hideously unfair.
I shivered as the biting wind dragged over me, pulling wisps of colorless hair loose from the tight braid encircling my scalp. There was the briefest hint of the fragrance of flowers on the wind’s breath, but it was overpowered by the dry, metallic scent of the ever-reddening earth. What if this was the last time I’d ever smell Iamos? The last time I’d ever see the sun, or the sky, without something in between me and it?
No.
I took a final shuddering breath, and, tucking a flyaway hair behind my ear, I made my decision. I was not giving up. It was not over. No matter what it took, this would not be my last annual.
It was only as I turned to head inside that I saw him.
I might have missed him otherwise, but the light from the setting sun threw his form into relief. A boy was sprawled across the ground. He wore no breathing apparatus. He was completely unprotected. And he wasn’t moving.
Panicked, I raced to his side. I was out of breath by the time I reached him, even though he lay only a short distance away. “Are you all right?” I asked, wheezing. When he didn’t respond, I rolled him over onto his back.
He was young—probably close to my own age. I realized instantly he couldn’t be from my city; his traits were all wrong. He must have come from another citidome. But how? He couldn’t have walked. All that way, unprotected? He would never have made it…
I reached for my earpiece, then hesitated. I was invisible right now—the System couldn’t track me—but if I called for help, I’d be back online and the geroi would know I’d broken the edict. Not to mention that it could draw their attention to the fact that my earpiece had been altered. Ceilos would never forgive me.
But there was no way I could shift this boy’s dead weight on my own, not when I was already feeling the effects of the thin air.
Before I could give myself a chance to change my mind, I pressed the button. “Gerouin Melusin,” I called.
“Nadin?” Melusin’s voice was soft in my ears, like the drip of water in the caverns.
There was no time for explanations. “I need help outside the dome,” I said as calmly as possible.
“‘Outside’?” she repeated, her gentle voice faltering almost imperceptibly. “What are you doing—”
“Just hurry,” I interrupted her, breathless. “I found someone out here. He’s injured.”
The gerouin said nothing more, simply disconnecting. I turned back to the boy. He was still unconscious, but he was breathing—barely. I crouched to get a better look at him. His hair was coated in the red dust that the wind kicked up in swirling eddies, but I could see it was curly and dark. His skin, on the other hand, appeared bleached like an old man’s, even though he was clearly young. Could unprotected exposure to solar rays have done this? The atmosphere was so thin now…
I inhaled shakily, my lungs burning. It was already painful for me to be outside, and I couldn’t have been out for more than five minutes. This boy… how did he get here?

Purchase Fourth World on Amazon.com

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lyssachiavariAbout Lyssa Chiavari
Lyssa Chiavari is an author of speculative fiction for young adults, including Fourth World, the first book in a YA sci-fi trilogy set on Mars. Her short fiction has appeared in Ama-Gi magazine, the Wings of Renewal anthology, and Perchance to Dream, a young adult collection of Shakespeare retellings which she also edited. Her first published story, “The Choice,” was named one of Students for Liberty’s Best Fiction of 2014. When she’s not writing—which isn’t often—you can usually find her coding websites or losing an unreasonable number of life balloons on Donkey Kong. Lyssa lives with her family and way too many animals in the woods of Northwest Oregon, which suits her just fine; except it actually doesn’t rain there as much as you’ve been told, and she really could do with more rain, thanks.