Sunday, July 14, 2019

Checking In

At the end of 2018 I wrote a letter to myself, outlining my goals for 2019.  It's just past the halfway point in the year, so let's check in and see how I'm doing with these goals.  Original text is in black, my comments on progress in purple....

Dear Me,

2018 was a crazy year and while I somehow managed to achieve most of what I set out to do, it feels like it was more by accident than by design. So my first goal for 2019 is to plan ahead more. Think about what might be coming up before committing to things and set aside time for the things I really want to do.

Well, sort of.  I'm still not great at planning ahead, but at least I'm conscious of that now.

I have a book releasing on 1 February and I really want it to sell better than the last one. So my first goal for the year is to figure out the best way to market this new book, and the other ones, to generate sales. The subject matter for this one is less controversial than in Stumped, so hopefully that will help with sales, but getting reviews and getting them in the right places is crucial.

I worked my little tail off on this book.  I sent out hundreds of emails to reviewers, listed the book on all the free advertising sites I could find (and a couple of paid ones too), but it's got less reviews than any of my previous books and I don't think sales are great (I haven't received my royalty statement yet).  I'm still pushing it out wherever I can find opportunities for it, but it certainly isn't going as well as I had hoped.

I would like to publish another book in 2019. I have three that are very close to being ready to go, so I will endeavor to get at least one of these polished and ready to go out into the world. And send it out. If I'm lucky, I may even have all three ready to go out at some point during the year.

I have one that's ready to go out, but it's not my favorite, and after working so hard to get better sales for The Sidewalk's Regrets and not getting anywhere, I'm feeling a little blah about submitting another book to my current publisher.  I'm thinking I'll wait until I finish the new one I'm working on and try to get a new agent with it.

I also have three or four manuscripts in various stages of completion that I would like to go back to and finish. I'm not sure any of them are actually much good, but going back and re-reading them will let me know if there is anything worth salvaging in any of them. And if there is, I will work to finish any of these I feel are worth the effort.

Well that's actually happened.  One of the manuscripts I had lurking in my hard drive was actually really good (actually, a couple of them are, but this one really grabbed me) so I'm working on that and will hopefully finish it soon.

At the moment I don't have any burning ideas for a new book, which is probably a good thing considering how many unfinished projects I have lying around. But should something come up during the year, I will jump on that idea before it squirrels away again. And I will write the hell out of that idea.

Still not 100% in love with any of my current ideas, but it usually takes something I see in a movie or read to make the various threads in my head coalesce into a story.  So you never know...  I've never written a sequel, but I feel like the book I'm working on now might need one, from the POV of one of the other characters.  So we'll see...

I was pretty good with my exercising in 2018, so I want to keep that up. And my weekday intermittent fasting too. I even plan to buy some scales in the new year so I can keep track of my weight, rather than relying on how my clothes fit to tell me if I've gained or lost weight. The goal is to lose at least 5kg by Easter.

Ha ha!  I've lost 2kg by July.  And that's spurious.  I don't have scales so I've been weighing myself when I go to dinner at my folks' every couple of weeks and I have shoes and clothes on every week that probably change the reading.  But I have been good about the exercising and the intermittent fasting...  So it's not terrible.

And my final goal is to read more. I'm not going to get my Goodreads reading goal in 2018, which tells me I'm not reading enough. So I need to get on top of that.

Well, according to Goodreads I'm four books ahead of my goal, so that's got to be good, right?  Kind of amazing too, considering the library in town shut down because it wasn't earthquake safe.  Boy do I miss that library...

What are your goals for 2019?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 12-7-19

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?

It's the weekend!

After another really busy week at work, I'm looking forward to the weekend.  I've barely seen the kids all week and they've been on holiday, so over the weekend I plan to spend some time with them. If they'll let me, of course.

After making a good start on writing the ending of my book last weekend, I haven't managed to get anything more written since.  So this weekend I hope to manage another little burst of writing activity.  It's been one of those weeks where I've been writing long corporate documents at work and by the time I come home, my word-bank feels like it's been drained and it's almost impossible to write any more.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Books I've Read: What Makes Us

This was one of those books where the subject matter was really fascinating, but the writing didn't really do it justice.  Maybe it's because I had an ARC and the formatting was kind of screwed up, but I think that was only a small part of it.

Eran is concerned with social justice.  He knows he has a problem with anger and blames that on his mother who also has moments where she lashes out in irrational rage.  He never knew his father so has to believe that if he had, his father's influence may have changed him.

That believe is dramatically shattered when, after things get heated at a supposedly peaceful protest, Eran discovers his father was a terrorist responsible for an horrific bombing.

Suddenly the community he has lived in for as long as he can remember is taking sides.  Some want him and his mother driven out of town.  Others support them.

As they deal with the aftermath of this discovery, Eran learns that there are a huge number of factors that make us who we are.

This is important subject matter and very relevant to these times.  The struggle Eran faces is one that thousands of people face every day in some shape or form.  The book tells the story largely from Eran's point of view, but occasionally there is a section from his mother, and a few sections are narrated by a school friend who is also struggling with her identity after discovering some things that don't add up about her own past.

Eran was kind of an annoying character and I never felt anything he thought or said rang 100% true.  Both he and Jade felt younger than the seventeen they were supposed to be.  Maybe this is because they are both quite sheltered, with parents who are both over-protective and secretive about the reasons why.

I read this ARC on my Kindle and there were no breaks in the text to let me know when the POV changed, which was confusing, especially when the POV changed to the mother.  Jade and Eran's voices were also so similar it was difficult to understand when they switched too. 

So while I thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I had hoped I would.

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

A viral video reveals a teen’s dark family history, leaving him to reckon with his heritage, legacy, and identity in this fiery, conversation-starting novel.

Eran Sharon knows nothing of his father except that he left when Eran was a baby. Now a senior in high school and living with his protective but tight-lipped mother, Eran is a passionate young man deeply interested in social justice and equality. When he learns that the Houston police have launched a program to increase traffic stops, Eran organizes a peaceful protest.

But a heated moment at the protest goes viral, and a reporter connects the Sharon family to a tragedy fifteen years earlier — and asks if Eran is anything like his father, a supposed terrorist. Soon enough, Eran is wondering the same thing, especially when the people he’s gone to school and temple with for years start to look at him differently.

Timely, powerful, and full of nuance, Rafi Mittlefehldt’s sophomore novel confronts the prejudices, fears, and strengths of family and community, striking right to the heart of what makes us who we are.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Weekly Goals 8-7-19

The broken record is still spinning, so once again my goal this week is to finish my book.

I'm further along than I have been the last few weeks - I have actually written something toward the ending.  I just need to keep going.

So that's what I will do.  I don't think I'm going to have a lot of time or energy for writing this week because of the amount of work I have on, plus the kids are on holiday from school.  But I will do what I can...

My other goal is to make sure my non-reading kid reads at least one book each week of the holidays and doesn't spend the entire two weeks playing games on his phone.  And that the other one gets out of the house at least once a day and does something physical.

The problem is, without being here it's hard to enforce.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 5-17-19

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?

It's the weekend!

After a crazy, crazy week at work, I'm looking forward to the weekend.  Even though it looks like I may need to do some work over the weekend because I have something I'm working on that has to be done by 4pm Monday and I was only asked to do it on Wednesday afternoon.  And it's a big 'un!

Hopefully not though...

I booked my film festival tickets which is always an exciting thing for me.  I'm going to 16 films over the two weeks, so time will be at a premium.  Luckily a lot of the sessions I booked for are at the cinema just down the road from my house, so it's handy.

This evening my son and I are going to hear the Youth Orchestra play Holst's The Planets.  I'm looking forward to it.  I love that piece of music.  My sister went to school where Holst wrote it (he was the music teacher) and the desk he wrote it on was still there.

Other than that, I don't have anything much planned for the weekend.  I think the whole family would like to see Toy Story 4, so we might do that.  And my parents are back from visiting my sister in Arizona, so we will have dinner with them on Sunday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

ISWG - July Post

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post.  And this month's question is:

What personal traits have you written into your character(s)?

I think writing yourself into your characters is inevitable.  The way you see the world and experience it is obviously going to filter into your writing.  The things you do and places you go are going to be points of reference that will spill into the world of your story.

I write myself into my characters all the time, but I usually don't realize it until much later when I go back and re-read my stuff after leaving it for a while and recognize certain things as coming directly from my own perspective.

I also write characters that have traits I wish I had...  My MCs often have best friends who are bold, extroverted and unafraid to do or be whatever they want to be, while the MCs tend to be more reserved, like me.

Sacha in The Sidewalk's Regrets is probably the character that is the most like me of all the characters I've written.  She's driven, obstinate, probably a little obsessive and fiercely loyal - all traits I see in myself.  It's how she uses these traits that differs from my own experience.

I find that individual events and stories of my own often best illustrate moments in my stories.  For example, in Stumped, Ozzy is thinking about disappointment and the moment he first understood the meaning of the word and remembers the time his mother took him to a circus that promised a "man eating fish" throughout the show.  With each mention, Ozzy got more and more excited about seeing this mythical creature, only to be horribly disappointed when a man wandered around the ring eating a piece of fish in the final act.  This little anecdote came directly from my own childhood.

Do you find that you write pieces of yourself into your stories?  Do you use your own anecdotes to illustrate points?

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Weekly Goals 1-7-19

I can't quite believe it's July already!  Where on earth has the year disappeared to?

This week I hope to actually start writing that elusive ending.  I'm not 100% happy with what I've come up with, but it's better than the nothing I have now.  Maybe one of my readers will be able to come up with something better when I give them the MS to critique.  But I can't give anyone an unfinished MS to critique.

So that's my main goal this week.

I also have a big project starting at work that will keep me busy until around October off and on.  So this week is all about getting that set up and ready and starting work.

Other than that, I have nothing special planned.  Jut going to the gym and getting the kids through their last week of school before they go on vacation for two weeks.

What are your goals this week?