Thursday, January 19, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things 20-1-17

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

So what am I celebrating this week?

It was my first week back at work after the summer break and it has been a struggle.  Luckily, Monday is a public holiday, so I get an extra weekend day to recover.  It seems ridiculous to feel like I need a long weekend after only one week back in the office, but…

The kids are still on vacation so the house has been quiet and my partner and I have had the opportunity to go out and enjoy ourselves without having to worry about babysitters.

On Tuesday I went to see Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and it was a fantastic concert.  He is just the most compelling performer.  I've been buzzing ever since.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Books I've Loved: Still Life With Tornado

I think A. S. King is one of the most interesting writers around at the moment.  Her books have an element of the surreal about them, but the core is always about something very real.  This book is no exception.

Sarah has basically given up.  She won't go to school and she feels like she can't do art, the one thing she has always been good at.  And then she starts meeting other versions of herself - a ten-year-old Sarah, a 23-year-old Sarah and a 40-year-old Sarah.  Unsurprisingly, she thinks she's going bonkers!

It turns out she's not.  She just has something she needs to work through.  Something that happened when she was ten and the family went on vacation to Mexico. Something to do with her parents and her much older brother.  And something to do with her art teacher and a project she did for the school art fair that never made it to the judging table.

As Sarah starts to remember the traumatic events, the past and the present collide.

I liked the way Sarah's mother had a voice in this book alongside Sarah.  Her version of events contrasts with Sarah's, but adds a layer of depth and understanding.  I also liked that everyone just accepted the various versions of Sarah without much difficulty, even when all of them were in the same room.

The events unfold slowly, and we learn about what happened at the same pace Sarah does.  She's not exactly an unreliable narrator, but because she has repressed so much, we can't trust everything she says.

I really enjoyed this, and recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who likes their stories just a little off-beat.

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

Actually Sarah is several human beings. At once. And only one of them is sixteen. Her parents insist she’s a gifted artist with a bright future, but now she can’t draw a thing, not even her own hand. Meanwhile, there’s a ten-year-old Sarah with a filthy mouth, a bad sunburn, and a clear memory of the family vacation in Mexico that ruined everything. She’s a ray of sunshine compared to twenty-three-year-old Sarah, who has snazzy highlights and a bad attitude. And then there’s forty-year-old Sarah (makes good queso dip, doesn’t wear a bra, really wants sixteen-year-old Sarah to tell the truth about her art teacher). They’re all wandering Philadelphia—along with a homeless artist allegedly named Earl—and they’re all worried about Sarah’s future.

But Sarah’s future isn’t the problem. The present is where she might be having an existential crisis. Or maybe all those other Sarahs are trying to wake her up before she’s lost forever in the tornado of violence and denial that is her parents’ marriage.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


As it's Monday, the day I usually post my weekly goals, I'll post my yearly letter to myself instead.  I'm still sort of on vacation this week - I have to go to work, but the kids are still away so I'm not committing myself to knuckling down into any project until they're back.

So here are my goals for 2017.  I'll check back in on them in June or July to see how I'm tracking, and again at the end of the year.

Dear Me,

2017 feels like it is going to be a year of change.   This early on, it’s difficult to know if those changes will be positive or negative, so I am heading into the new year with a certain amount of uncertainty hanging over my head.  I’m trying to see this as a good thing.  Change doesn’t have to be bad.  Often it’s good to get kicked out of a rut or comfort zone and forced to challenge yourself.  But it can be terrifying and uncertainty is always unnerving.

One thing I am certain about is my love for writing, and as my productivity is something I can control, I will focus my goals for the upcoming year in that direction rather than on the things I have little or no control over.

I am just over 50K into the novel I started during NaNo and my first goal is to finish that.  It’s kind of a mess, so I know it will need a lot of work, but to do that work, I have to finish writing it.  I hope to get this done by the end of February or early in March.

I have a lot of manuscripts hanging around my hard drive in various stages of finshed-ness.  Once I have completed the ugly first draft of the NaNo book, I plan to dig out a couple of the best almost-finished or not-quite-there novels and get them polished up to where I feel they need to be.  I know there are at least two I actually quite like, but got kind of lost in the chaos of editing and revising and writing new shiny things.

I imagine that will take me until about June.

I plan to do Camp NaNo in June and attempt to turn a series of short stories I have written about a single family and their beach house into a novel.  This will be a real challenge because the narrator in these stories is both nameless and genderless.  It’s challenging enough to deal with that in a 3000 word short story, so attempting a novel in that voice will be a real test for me.  But I’m pretty excited about it.  I just need to think more about how to structure the novel and whether to include the original short stories as part of the book, or to start from scratch, maybe referencing them in some way.

Once I’ve completed the draft of the beach house book, I will revise the NaNo book.  By then I ought to have had enough time away that I can see it clearly and will be able to revise it effectively.  And my awesome critique group will help.

Depending on what else happens throughout the year, I will also try to do NaNo in November.  Some years the timing doesn’t work for me because of editing or revising, but it is such a great motivator.  I have some other ideas creeping around the back of my head, none of which are ready to be put to paper, but by November hopefully one will be…

I will attempt, as I do every year, to be more active in my critique group.   I tend to have bursts of activity, but I really am not as good as I ought to be when it comes to reviewing for them. I will aim to be much better this year!

And as always, I will aim to be fitter and healthier.  I have had a great start to 2017 in that respect, but I know that once I’m back at work and the kids are clamouring for dinner as soon as I walk in the door, going to the gym will end up being a weekend-only thing again.  I will try to go at least one time during the week as well, and will continue to go walking during my lunchbreak as well.

Both the boys have important years at school ahead of them, so I need to be more involved with both their schoolwork this year.  It’s difficult because neither of them want me looking at their stuff, but I need to keep on top of what they are doing, so I will make sure I check in on their schoolwork at least once a week, if not more.

And that’s about it for 2017.  I will pop back in June or early July to see how I’m tracking with these, and again at the end of the year…

Love, Me.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things 13-1-17

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

So what am I celebrating this week?

I just got back from holiday, so I'm celebrating having a great break. The weather wasn't as stellar as it has been in previous years, but I swam in the sea 7 out of the 10 days.  I also did lots of hiking and spent some time with my sister, her husband and my niece.  They live in Arizona and only come out to New Zealand  every couple of years, so that was nice.

I also went mountain biking for the first time on the tracks in the hills behind the beach house.  I'm not a great mountain biker, I discovered, and my legs are showing the result!  It was fun though.

Yesterday the tides were right for kayaking, so my elder son and I dragged the kayaks down to the estuary.  It was pretty windy and paddling was difficult.  At one point I was trying to stay in one spot while I waited for him to catch up and managed to capsize.  First time I've ever done that!  Luckily the estuary isn't deep, so it was easy enough to climb back in.  Just a little chilly with the wind blowing through my wet clothes.

But all in all, it was a good holiday and I'm feeling refreshed and invigorated to start the new year at work on Monday.  And I have tickets to see Nick Cave (my favorite singer since I was about 13) on Tuesday, so that definitely softens the blow of having to go back to work on Monday.

What are you celebrating this week?