Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Books I've Read: Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now

This is one of those books I really enjoyed reading, but certain things about it made me really uncomfortable.

Tiffany's mother has just died of cancer and just before she's about to leave her grandmother's house in Chicago to live with the father she's never met, another man shows up at her door claiming he's her father. Unable to deal with this new twist in her already chaotic life, Tiffany tells him to leave. But the seed of doubt is sown.

The doubt grows once she gets to California and discovers her father has four other daughters, a white wife, a religion Tiffany can't understand and a million seemingly arbitrary rules she will have to follow.

As Tiffany tries to settle in, she can't help wondering about the other man.  Especially once she reaches out to him and discovers they have more than a little in common.  With only seven days before he shows up demanding a paternity test, Tiffany is unsure how hard she should try and bond with her confusing new family.

Luckily there's an oasis of sanity across the street in the form of the strange Marcus McKinney and his two mothers who welcome Tiffany with open arms.  Unfortunately, Tiffany's father has an irrational hatred of these people and warns her not to associate with them.

I really enjoyed Tiffany's dilemma, being caught between two men who might be her father.  The more time she spent with Anthony and his family, the more I wished the other man's claim was true.  I also really enjoyed he struggle to settle with a family who were so completely different to the one she had grown up with.  And watching her try and bond with her new sisters was also and enjoyable part of the story.

What I found problematic was her father, Anthony.  His rules seemed arbitrary and overbearing.  The way he treated the youngest daughter who is autistic was also terrible, bordering on abusive.  I found his forcing of his religious beliefs on Tiffany was distasteful and his bigotry regarding the family across the the street was just the final straw.

And his wife let him get away with it?  I could almost understand her staying and not standing up to him if she was dependent on him, but she is the one with the wealth in the relationship.  She could have taken the kids and moved out any time. 

Overall, despite the issues I had with Anthony and his behavior, this is an interesting book and one I would cautiously recommend.

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

For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mom to cancer has her a little bit traumatized and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known.

Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters—and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home—or get along with her standoffish sister London. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street. Marcus McKinney has had his own experiences with death, and the unexpected friendship that blossoms between them is the only thing that makes her feel grounded.

But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s Tiffany’s real dad—and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realizing that maybe family is in the bonds you make—and that life means sometimes taking risks.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Weekly Goals 28-10-19

Can you believe the end of October is rushing toward us?  What has happened to this year?

Obviously, the end of October marks the beginning go NaNo for those of us insane enough to try writing a novel in a month.  So this week my goals are to finish the word-cutting exercise I've been doing the past couple of weeks and send the damn manuscript off.

Then I'll be as ready for NaNo as I'm going to get.

I'm not going to freak out about word count on a daily basis because I know I'm probably not going to hit it most days.  But my plan is to take a week off work toward the end of November and spend that week writing 5-6 hours a day.  So I should make up the words I'm behind fairly easily that week.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 25-10-19

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 a long weekend!

Yes, Monday is our Labour Day, so we get a three-day weekend.  This is always the public holiday I look forward to most because it's been so long since the last one (Queen's Birthday in June).

So I'm looking forward to having a bit of extra rest this weekend.  I've been super busy at work again this week, and the next couple of weeks are likely to be even worse, so I am going to make the most of this weekend.  Even though I do have a bunch of work reading to do...  I will try to get that done all in one day so I still have two more days to enjoy.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Books I've Loved: Dig

I have been a longtime fan of A.S. King, and this book just proves why I'm right to rush out to read her new book as soon as it becomes available.

It's magnificent.

Like another book I loved this year (Bridge of Clay) it isn't the easiest book to read.  It's confusing to begin with, the characters not given names, but titles.  And then opening the book with a chapter about a pair of old people?

But as the book unfolds, the connections between these seemingly random strangers reveal themselves and the truths about why they are estranged from each other become clear.

I actually can't say a lot about the book here without ruining it for you.  It's a book I read in a single afternoon because once I started, I couldn't put it down.  It's about racism and tolerance, and family and the ways people divide and come together and misunderstandings that lead to a lifetime of isolation.  It's complex and honest and truthful.

It's one of the best books I've read all year.

So just read it, okay?

And while I've put the blurb here for you, I don't think you should read it.  I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't because the book was so much more of an adventure and a pleasure without having read it.

But it's your choice....

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they've declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.

"Because we want them to thrive," Marla always says.

What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby's drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamiaca between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest.

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Weekly Goals 21-10-19

Once again I have a busy week at work ahead, so once again I am keeping my expectations of myself low.  I haven't finished my word cutting exercise yet, so I will keep going with that.  I'd like to get rid of another couple hundred if I can.

I signed up to do NaNo, but the book I signed up to write doesn't feel entirely ready in my head.  And another story has been haunting me for weeks.  So I may need to change that.  I guess I have a few more days before November 1 to figure it out.

And that's about it for me this week.

What are your goals?

Friday, October 18, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 18-10-19

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!

I know, I celebrate that every week, but at the moment, my weeks are so crazy, having a couple of days off each week is definitely something to celebrate.  Especially weeks like this one where I don't actually have anything I have to do or anywhere I have to go.  Except cook Sunday dinner for the extended family, but that's most weeks, so I barely count it.  I like to cook anyway...

Fun fact you may not have known about me: I used to be a chef.

I paid my way through university as a chef (it paid way better than waitressing) and it has been one of those really useful skills I have been able to utilize at various other points in my career.  I also credit being a chef for the way I deal with stress and times when the workload becomes overwhelming.  Okay, in a restaurant you're only ever in the weeds for a few hours at a time, while in other businesses it can be weeks, but if you just focus on each task (or order) until it's done and you can send it out the door, eventually you reach the end.


So there's my profound wisdom for the week.

What are you celebrating?

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Books I've Read: I Wish You All The Best

This was an enjoyable read.  Ben is close to finishing their senior year when they decide it's time to stop hiding the fact they're non-binary from their parents.  They're not entirely sure how they will take it, but don't expect to be kicked out of the house.

Ben finds themself on the street and is forced to call the sister they haven't spoken to in ten years.  A sister who also left home under a cloud of parental anger.

The rest of the book follows Ben as they navigate a new life with Hannah and her husband, Thomas.  They think they are going to be able to lie low at their new school, just make it through the rest of the year without any more drama.  They decide to keep their non-binary identity a secret from everyone except Hannah, Thomas and their therapist, not wanting any more chaos in their life.

But Ben doesn't figure on meeting Nathan, the charismatic boy who seems determined to be friends even when Ben deliberately tries to avoid it.  And the more time they spend together, the more certain it becomes that this friendship is moving toward something else.

I enjoyed this book.  Ben was an interesting narrator and their struggles were ones that will resonate with a lot of people, not only those struggling to find their place on the gender spectrum.  Their parents were really terrible and I found it difficult to believe that, having already lost their daughter, they wouldn't have tried a little harder with Ben to understand and to be supportive.  And not the kind of trying that involves demands and threats...

I liked the relationship between Ben and their sister and brother-in-law although it all seemed a little too easy for people who hadn't seen or spoken to each other for a decade.  And Ben would have been a little kid when Hannah left, so the fact they'd never spoken as grown-ups made the quick reconciliation and mutual understanding feel a little false.

Given the reason Ben was forced away from home was their non-binary identification, not a lot of time was spent on that.  I would have liked a little more about Ben's feelings about this, and how they came to the conclusion this was their reality.  There were a few places Ben became uncomfortable with people calling them 'son' or 'man' or using he/him pronouns, but it was never more than a passing thought that they didn't like it.

But apart from that, I found spending a few hours with these people to be a good time.  And Nathan was a worthy love interest.  I think every school has someone like him, one of those people who commands attention just by walking into a room.  Someone whose energy seems pitched just a little higher than everyone else's.

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

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they're thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents' rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben's attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan's friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Weekly Goals 14-10-19

Once again I need to keep my goals limited because work is crazy.

I finished trying to cut 1,000 words from my story and managed to only get rid of about 350.  I need to go back and do another pass, this time being much more ruthless. So that's this week's task.

I've been giving serious thought to doing NaNo this year, just to try and get something new drafted.  But I'm not sure the book I want to write is ready to be written yet.  It's not fully formed in my head and a lot of the side characters are kind of hazy.

Plus, the usual lack of time and energy to write.  I was thinking I'd take a week off work to try and do the bulk of it, but I'm not sure I will be able to.  And if I do take a week off, would it be better to do it at the beginning of the month or the end?  I'm more likely to be able to take a week off at the end, but in reality, I feel like blasting through the words at the beginning of the month might be the way to go.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 11-10-19

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!

I've had another insanely busy week at work and am completely exhausted.  So this weekend is going to be a quiet one.  I have books to read and writing and editing I need to get on with.  I also feel like I should spend a little time with my kids considering it's the last weekend of their holidays and I've barely seen them the whole two weeks.

I've been really good and ridden my bike to and from work a few times this week.  Hopefully the weather will allow me to do it a few more times next week too.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Author Interview: Deidre Huesmann

I'm lucky enough to have fellow Evernight Teen author Deidre Huesmann visiting the blog today.  Deidre is the author of Burning Britely and its sequel, Yearning Young.

Welcome to Fiction and Film!

If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be?  Why? And what would you do that day?

Of my published works, probably Maya from the BURNING BRITELY duology. She seems like she likes her life, and has a solid friendship with the main character, Jeffrey. I also share a similar sense of humor as her (though she’s more boisterous), so it wouldn’t feel weird to do.

As for what I’d do… I’d have to mess with Jeff, of course! He’s such a stick-in-the-mud, how could I not? I’m sure Maya would approve.

In what way is your story unique compared to other books in this genre?

For my YA contemporary, Jeff and Braeden’s stories are very close to things I experienced at their age – identifying myself as queer, unsure what to do about it, the military town life ensuring I keep my preferences to myself, the fear, the anxiety… I don’t see much of LGBTQ+ contemporary tackle military city life. Usually the bigotry comes from suburbs or out in the sticks.

In my YA fantasy stories I try to subvert expectations – and it’s getting harder to do in a crowded genre. The more comfortable I get writing LGBTQ+ characters, the more it seems to work. I think I’ll have some very interesting projects out there soon. More recently I’ve been working on incorporating food culture into my fantasies.

Something nobody can genuinely replicate are the senses of humor I instill in my characters. I’m terrible at being witty in person but give me some time and my characters are scathing.

What part of the story was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

YA contemporary isn’t my forte. In the case of BURNING BRITELY, it demanded to be written. I often find contemporary usually restrictive because of the real world, so playing by the rules can be a challenge for me. But the fun part was – and is – the characters. Jeff, Braeden, and Maya are so distinctive and play off each other in a way that I can’t help but smile at their interactions.

Which of your characters is most like you?

Probably Braeden Britely. I have a difficult time drawing myself out of toxic situations – especially at his age. I’m still working on bettering myself there. I also have a character named Natsuki in a WIP I’ve been working on for years, and her weirder sense of humor (especially as a defense mechanism) is definitely me.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and how would you use it?

With great power comes great responsibilities, and I think being a working mom is more than enough! But I guess I would find lack of sleep useful. I’d definitely get more done.

If you could reenact a scene from any book (not necessarily your own), what would it be? Who would you choose for your scene partner(s)?

My sister and I already reenacted Beauty & the Beast (the Disney tower scene) as kids… and I think we could do better now! I’d have us try again. This time I’ll be nice and let her be Belle; she’s tinier than me anyway.

Tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you.

I have a knack for hurting myself in weird ways. I’ve stabbed myself trying to open a bottle of wine, broke off a toenail falling from a half-foot ladder, gashed my leg trying to shave with a cast on one arm, broken more dishes (and cut myself) trying to wash them than I care to admit, got whacked in the head with a live sandblast hose… I’ve got more but we’d be here all day.

I also have the honor of being the only woman in the family to experience typically genetic pregnancy difficulties. So that was an interesting one…

What other interests do you have outside of writing?

I love drawing! It’s a hobby I more recently got back into; I used to draw a lot in high school but picked it up again a few months ago. Also like playing video games (anything from Stardew Valley to Dragon Age – and I’m PSYCHED for the FF7 remake next year!).

Do you have a nervous habit when writing? A guilty pleasure when writing? (example: chew a pen to death or have a stack of Hershey’s kisses while you write)

I don’t know if I have any nervous habits, but my husband says my face is scary when I get intensely into it.

About Deidre:

A military brat who lucked out and grew up mostly in the Pacific Northwest, Deidre has been reading for as long as she can remember, and writing since a teacher praised her story about a guinea pig in second grade. Now she's is the author of the Modern Greek Myth trilogy, the Secrets of the Sequoia trilogy, and the Burning Britely LGBTQ+ duology. While YA will always be the first love of her life, Deidre is most devoted to her kids, stepkids, and husband.


BURNING BRITELY is book one in an LGBTQ+ YA contemporary duology. Two young men in a military town struggling with their identities, what it means to be queer in a conservative area, and what they mean to each other.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Weekly Goals 7-10-19

I just realized I missed my Celebrate post on Friday.  How remiss of me...  I do apologize.  Last week was so crazy, I must have blanked on what day it was.

But onward, with goals for the week.

I already know it's going to be a really busy week at work, so one again I need to keep my expectations low as far as my own work goes.  So my goal is only to keep working on cutting words from my project.  Ideally I'd like to get through another ten chapters this week.

And apart from that, I'd like to be able to start riding my bike to work again now that it's light later in the evenings.  I had great plans to do it today, then realized I have a screening after work and it will be dark by the time that's finished.  So maybe Wednesday will work.  Fingers crossed the weather is good.

What are your goals this week?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

IWSG - October

It's the first Wednesday in October, so it's time for the IWSG.  This month's question is a good one and one I'm very passionate about, it turns out...

It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?

I don't think you can be a writer if you don't read.  

Maybe you think your ideas are wholly original, but how do you know?  You may be writing exactly the same story thousands of other people have already written.  But equally, you may be writing something no one in the world would want to read.  Or your writing might turn out to be completely un-readable.

Reading not only teaches you what good writing and storytelling looks like, it also teaches you what bad writing and storytelling is.  Without reading yourself,  I don't understand how you would even understand how to write a book.  Or why you'd want to.  I mean, why put out a product you, yourself wouldn't even buy?

I guess the argument could be made that you can learn about storytelling through movies and television shows, but there is a big difference between writing a script (or watching a film) and writing a book.  Writing for film and television is a very different skill than writing novels or short stories and the storytelling onscreen is different to that in books.  The basic structure is similar, but the execution is different. Imagine trying to write a book by describing a film in detail, including the dialogue.  It might resemble a book, but it wouldn't be a book.

As for reading making you less original, yes, maybe a few words or phrases from another author's work might get stuck in your head and unconsciously be spat out on your page, but don't they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery?  And you will be using those words and phrases in a new context in a new story and you may not even have remembered them 100% accurately.

I strongly believe that in order to be a great writer, you must be a reader.  Everything I have learned about writing has come from reading and reading widely.  It's crucial you read within the genre you're writing so you can fully understand the rules and tropes and expectations of that genre.  You can then subvert those, but to do that successfully,  you need to understand them to begin with.

It's also crucial to read outside the genre you write to learn about other styles and tropes you could draw on to make your own work stronger.  You may even discover you want to write something quite different next time...  

So get out there and read a book.  You never know, you might even find you enjoy it!