Sunday, January 17, 2021

Weekly Goals 18-1-21

 I'm going to keep things simple this week.  Last week felt a million years long and the weekend was not enough to re-energize.  So this week I'm not setting myself any goals other than to get through the week in better shape than I did last week.

Going back to work after vacation is hard...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 15-1-21

 


This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

I made it through the first week back at work.  It was long.  It was hard.  But I made it to Friday in one piece.  And as an added bonus, the weather has been great all week so I rode my bike to and from work every day.

I've sent off another batch of queries for Standing Too Close, so keep your fingers crossed for me.  I made a few small changes to this batch of queries since the last rounds don't seem to have hit the mark.  If this round still doesn't generate requests, I'll make some more tweaks.  So far I haven't been targeting agents who were interested in my previous books because I want to make sure the query is right before I hit them.

And that's about it for this week.  Looking forward to a quiet weekend at home.  I plan to do a lot of reading and to bake a cake.  My younger son gets back from holiday on Monday afternoon, so things will get busier after that as we get ready for them to go back to school.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Books I've loved: Gut Check

 


So a book about football and football players in a small fishing town does not really sound like something I'd be into, but I loved this book!

Calling it comic (as the blurb does) is something of a stretch, to be honest. There's a lot of very dark stuff in this book, from the broken marriage of the protagonists' parents to the devastating natural disaster that has struck the town for the second time in these teens' short lives.  There are funny moments though, and the narrator's sardonic view of his world offers some humor too.

Wyatt is the fat kid who has always lived in his older brother's shadow.  Brett is a star football player whose season was cut short last year when a player from a rival team intentionally injured him.  It's Brett's last chance to shine this year, with college scholarships on the line.  Wyatt tries out for the team in an attempt to finally have a relationship with his brother after a lifetime of feeling that they have little in common.

He's surprised when he makes the team, and even more so when it turns out his bulk, which has long been cause for ridicule, proves valuable on the field.  The team's season goes from strength to strength, generating a kind of town-wide pride that is much needed as the community's fishing industry is destroyed by a toxic algae.

So when Brett is concussed during a game, he swears Wyatt to secrecy, knowing the town is relying on him and the team to raise their profile on a national level and receive much-needed funding.

I enjoyed the relationship between the brothers in this book very much.  They are very different people each responding to the darkness of their broken home in his own way.  Brett initially seems cool and stand-offish, but as Wyatt, and the reader, grow closer to him, his quiet, considered manner is revealed to be his defence mechanism.

The insights into the male world of the locker room and football field are vividly drawn and the behaviour of these boys is often appalling, yet totally understandable in the context of their lives.

So I'd recommend this one, even if it doesn't sound on the surface like something you'd be into.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

A darkly comic high-school drama about brotherhood, body image, concussions, and toxic masculinity from Boston Globe–bestselling adult author of That Book About Harvard.

Wyatt has wanted nothing more than to play football on Grayport's championship-winning team. But not for the fame, glory, or girls. It's his last chance to build a relationship with his older brother Brett, the star quarterback, before he leaves for college. Now that their team has gained national attention, a big win could be just what the small town needs in order to rebound from a fishing season that has been devastated by Red Tide. But when Brett suffers a terrible concussion, Wyatt must decide if keeping his brother's secret is worth risking his scholarship future.

Told with irreverent humor reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen, and a stark honesty about brotherhood and masculinity for fans of Andrew Smith, Gut Check explores the struggle of grappling with uncomfortable truths.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Weekly Goals 11-1-20

 The holidays are over and today is my first day at work for 2021, so it's time to get back into a routine.

Goals this week are to try and take it easy at work.  I have a couple of important things I need to do, but other than them, I can't imagine things are going to be too, too crazy.  Fingers crossed anyway!  I'm feeling fairly relaxed after a week at the beach, but it was definitely a shorter holiday than usual by a few days, and I can feel that.

I've been exercising a lot while away, and need to keep that up.  My bike needs some work done on it, but I'm sure I can borrow my son's while mine is in the shop.  As long the the weather holds, I'll ride to and from work which is a nice, easy way to exercise daily without having to try and steal time from elsewhere.

I plan to send some more queries for Standing Too Close this week.  Fingers crossed some of them might generate interest...

I want to die my NaNo novel a couple more weeks to rest, but I'm gearing up for that read-through and the inevitable pages of editing notes I will write myself when I do it.  Have to try and get back to the mood I was in when I started writing...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Dear Me 2021

 Dear Me,

Writing this annual letter outlining my goals for the year seems almost presumptuous given the shitshow 2020 turned out to be.  But it's human nature to live in hope, so I'm writing this in that spirit of hope, crossing my fingers that 2021 turns out to be a much better year.

So what do I hope to achieve in 2021?

I started querying Standing Too Close in October, albeit in a very slow, quiet way.  So far, no bites, so I will continue to query this widely.  I'm confident it's one of the best things I've written and I love the characters almost as much as my own children so I want this book to be seen and read widely.

I have a book coming out in March.  Chasing the Taillights was originally written about ten years ago, but has been rewritten several times since.  It's another story where I feel very close to the characters so I'm very glad other people are going to get the chance to meet Lucy and Tony.  I plan to throw everything I can at marketing this book in the hope it will generate some sales and possibly even boost sales of my other published books.  They need it!

In February I plan to dig out the book I wrote during NaNo to start revising and editing it.  By then I'm hoping I've forgotten enough about it to look at it with fresh eyes and really see what needs to be done - other than the 700 things I left myself notes to fix later.  I'm hoping this will turn out to be good once it has been through some revision.

At some point in the year I want to write the other book I had in mind for NaNo.  A Stranger to Kindness is going to be a challenge for me, but the characters are living and growing in my head and eventually they're going to want to get out to play on the page.  It's going to be kind of a companion piece to Stumped in that Ozzy's little sister, Meg, is a character in this one.  Not exactly a main character, but an important one.  The main character is a boy who doesn't speak, and given how reliant I am on dialogue in my books, this is where the challenge lies...

So those are my main writing challenges for the year.  I'm hoping to be able to find other opportunities too, but as I don't know what they are yet, it's difficult to know how to plan for them other than to be open to things.

I didn't hit my reading goal this year.  In retrospect, 160 books in a year was probably always going to be a stretch, but libraries closing over lockdown definitely didn't help.  I'm going to set a more realistic 145 book goal for 2021 and already have the first nine or ten lined up to read over the next ten days.  I can't wait!

Other goals for the year include continuing to exercise regularly and to go to the cinema as much as possible.  COVID-19 has made significant changes to the way films are being released and viewed, and as someone who has devoted much of her life to cinemas, I want to support them as much as possible.  I cannot imagine a world in which movies are not seen in theaters.  As much as I love the convenience of being able to watch what I want at home, nothing will replace the experience of sitting in a dark theatre with a community of strangers and sharing a story.

And I think that's it...  What are your goals for the new year?


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

IWSG - January 2021


It's the first Wednesday of the month (and of 2021) so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group...  

This month's question is a great one!

Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

There are a number of things that will pull me out of a book I'm reading, but number one on the list is poor editing.  If I find spelling and grammar mistakes, tense changes or slips in the POV, I'm instantly thrown out of the story.  I'll usually persevere if it's a single error, but once I've found more than a couple of these lapses, I'm unlikely to finish the book because I know it will keep tossing me out of the story and be more frustrating than enjoyable.

Another thing that bugs me a lot when I'm reading is when characters do things that aren't in line with their personalities just because it's useful for moving the plot forward.  It's immensely frustrating when an author has given you a well drawn character and then they act in a way that character just wouldn't in that circumstance.  It makes me lose faith in the author.  I might not stop reading the book, but it certainly does make me pause and think about it.

I also don't like too much coincidence in a book, especially when those coincidences make things easier for the characters.  Yes, there are often odd coincidences in life, but in a book, when things come easy for the characters as a result of some well-placed coincidences, it annoys me.  Again, maybe not enough to make me quit reading, but enough that I probably wouldn't rate that book so highly.

What are the things that bug you while reading?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Checking in on 2020's goals

 Each year I write a letter to myself in January outlining my goals for the year.  Before we take a look at 2021's goals, let's check in and see how I went with last year's...  Black is the original letter; purple are my comments on whether or not that goal was met.

Dear Me,

It’s now mid-January, so I’m a little late writing this annual letter to myself.  But I have a good excuse because before the New Year hit I was writing a novella to deadline and I went away on holiday right afterward and didn’t take my computer with me.  So here we are...

For those of you who haven’t followed me through this annual ritual, each year I write a letter to myself outlining my goals for the year ahead.  Around mid June I check in on it to see how I’m tracking, and then again at the end of the year.

Before we look at the year ahead, let’s just take a moment to reflect on the year just gone.  For the last couple of years I have struggled a little as a writer.  After 23 years working as a cinema manager, I moved into a new role which has evolved to a point where much of my day is spent writing, editing and otherwise wrangling words.  While I have learned an enourmous amount doing this, and really enjoy the work, I often find myself completely depleted by the end of the day and unable to find the energy or inspiration for my own writing.

I've managed to find a balance that seems to work for me through my 5:30am writing sessions and using weekends and holidays wisely.

Learning to accept that I’m not able to be as prolific as I used to be has been a challenge, but I think I am now at peace with it.  It means that any opportunity I have to write is all the more precious.  And toward the end of 2019 I think I fell back in love with writing after being somewhat disenchanted with it for a time.

Still very much in love with it and feeling very inspired after NaNo this year.  Itching to start writing something new...

So my main goal in 2020 is to keep being in love with writing and to keep doing it whenever the opportunity arises.  I think perhaps I have given too much weight to publishing novels over the last few years, and while I still want to write and publish my books, I also want to explore other opportunities.

I have always written short stories, and have a pile of good ones just sitting there, waiting to be published.  So this year I plan to do some writing and submitting of short stories as well as continuing to write and submit novels.

I did this and even had a couple of things published.  And even more things rejected.  But that's all part of the game.

I also still have several finished, almost-finished and partly finished novels sitting on my hard drive.  Some of these are really good and I need to get them to the point I can send them out to publishers etc.  In 2019 my goal was to finish all these books too, but I only actually got one finished and sent out during the year, despite my best intentions.  I’m still waiting to hear back about that one too, so we’ll see...

Still working through these, but I have finished and sent out a few different manuscripts this year, including the one that will be published in March.

There’s a contest I’m hoping to enter too, and it closes in early February, so I’m working to get another one of those unfinished/almost-finished books ready to send out.  I’ve changed my mind a few times about which one to work on, but I think I’ve landed on the right one for this particular contest.

Did this too.  Didn't win... Will enter again in 2021 with a different MS.

Once that one is done and out the door, I have notes from critique partners to address on two other books.  Plus two other books that need endings.  One of these I really like, but I struggled for months last year over how to end it.  I’m still not 100% certain I know what to do with it, but I’m determined to figure it out because I really love the book and its characters.

I finished that one - Standing Too Close - and am currently querying it.  Others still need more work before they are polished enough to go out to publishers and/or agents.  

The other things I’d really like to try and tackle this year are writing a novel based on my “beach house” series of short stories, and attempting my first novel for adults.  I have a loose kind of outline for the adult novel written and I had planned to write it during NaNo in November, but chickened out.  So I wrote something else during NaNo while I started reading more adult books to try and figure out how the tone of voice is different.  Hopefully I’ll feel ready to write this story this year.  It’s one that’s been hanging out in my head since about 2010...

That didn't happen.  Neither of them.  Other ideas for stories just took over.  Maybe next year...

On the non-writing side of things, I plan to keep exercising regularly.  While the weather is good and daylight saving keeps the evenings light enough, I will keep riding my bike to and from work as much as possible.  Once the weather turns, I will get back into going to the gym at lunchtimes as often as I can.  And I will keep going to my Saturday morning spin classes every week because I enjoy them, even after 10 or so years.

I managed this.  Quite proud of how I've managed to keep exercise very much a part of my daily routines.

My younger son starts high school this year and I think he’s going to find it quite challenging.  I want to be available to him if he struggles and find ways to help him settle in, make new friends and hopefully find something that interests him (other than video games).

This proved to be true, but he did find a love of photography and has become very successful as a photographer of airplanes.  Shame there is so little air traffic at the moment thanks to the pandemic basically shutting down travel.

And I think that’s about it.  I know I should probably make some kind of goal around being kinder to myself or taking time out for me, but writing time is “me time” and as long as I can have a bath each night and read a book while I’m soaking, I’m happy.

What are your goals for the year?

Love, Me.