Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Blog hiatus

It's that time in the summer where I'm taking a short break from blogging to enjoy the beach.

So until the 13th, keep yourselves safe and amuse each other...

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Checking in on 2019 Goals

Each year I write myself a letter outlining my goals for the year ahead.  Then sometime around the middle and at the end, I check in to see how I'm doing on achieving those goals.  So let's see how I did with my 2019 goals, ahead of setting some new ones for 2020.  The original letter is in black, my comments on how well I achieved those goals 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.

I didn't do this as well as I might have hoped.  I got better toward the end of the year, but I didn't start out that way and I think that's why I didn't do as well at achieving everything I wanted to during the year.

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.

This one is a partial win.  Sales of The Sidewalk's Regrets aren't huge, but I have managed to get more reviews for it than for Stumped.  Unfortunately not all of them are as a positive as those for Stumped or An Unstill Life (which remains my most popular book for some reason), but negative reviews are just part and parcel of being a writer.  Overall though, the amount of work I had to put in to get those reviews was intense and I can't help feeling like the time I spent writing to book bloggers and reviewers, pitching my book, could have been better spent writing.

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 didn't do this.  I have sent one book out to a new publisher, but am still waiting to hear back on that.  On the plus side, I now have more books near to being ready to send out.  I just have to decide what I really want to do with them as I really want to reach more readers than I'm currently able to reach.

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.

I have done this, and while I haven't got any of these 100% ready to go out yet, I have a priority list of MSs to work on in the New Year and notes from readers to work through on a couple of them to get them ready to go out.

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.

I did this during NaNo and while I haven't actually finished the book (I'm starting to sense a theme here) I did write 60K and figure there's only another 15K or so to write before I reach the end.  

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.

I kept up with the exercising and fasting, but never lost that 5kg.  Or at least, I don't think I did.  I never bought any scales...  At this stage I feel like my body is just comfortable at this weight because it doesn't seem to matter what I do, I always end up one or two kilos either side of this weight.

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.

I have done a lot of reading in 2019.  I'm struggling to reach the Goodreads goal, but am only a couple of books behind.  I figure if I do a lot of reading over the next couple of days I might get there...

So, there you have it.  My last year was a mixture of successes and failures in terms of my goals.  Tune in next week to see what my goals for 2020 might be...

Friday, December 27, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 27-12-19

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?

Lots of things actually...

Christmas is over and we made it through the day without any major arguments or family feuds. Everyone seemed very happy with their gifts and even the younger kids didn't fight over presents.

On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) my partner and I went mountain biking and I somehow (don't ask me how) managed to ride off a small bridge onto some rocks.  I lost a bit of skin from my arm and have some spectacular bruises and a cracked rib or two, but it could have been a whole lot worse!  Just keeping my fingers crossed I've healed up enough to get back on my bike when we get to the beach house next week.

So while my various bruises heal, I'm taking time out to read and write.  I'm supposed to be deep cleaning the house, but I may have to take that in small chunks because it hurts to bend over or reach up too high...  All the more time for the things I really want to do.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Holidays!

As it's Christmas here today, I just wanted to wish you all the best for the holidays and hope you have a wonderful time wherever and however you choose to celebrate.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Weekly Goals 23-12-19

I'm on holiday so goals feel like something I shouldn't really have right now.  But because it's that time in the week, I'll play.

This week's goals are to relax and enjoy myself.  To read a lot.  Sleep a lot.  Eat good food.  Do some writing if I feel like it (and I'd better feel like it - I have a Jan 4 deadline for a story I'm writing for an anthology and I only started it on Thursday).

So that's my week planned out.  What are your goals for this week?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 20-12-19

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?


Yes, I am now officially on holiday and have three long, blissful weeks in which I don't have to go to work.  I plan to do a lot of sleeping, eating, reading and writing.  And not a lot else.

What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Books I've Read: Ship It

As I think I've mentioned before, fan fiction and the whole fan community thing is not something I'm really familiar with.  Although I think, if it had existed when I was growing up, I would have been right in there.  There's something about it that feels like it would have suited my slightly obsessive nature...

So I can't claim to be an expert on how these things work and how much of this book is real to that world and how much is fantasy or made up to make a more compelling story.  But I did enjoy reading this book, despite the main character, Claire, being kind of a pain in the ass.  She's an uber-fan of a TV show called Demon Heart and writes homo-erotic fan fiction about the two male leads.  Her fic is very popular within the Demon Heart fan community where there seem to be a lot of people willing to believe these two guys are only a wet-eyed glance away from falling into each other's arms (or beds).

Forest is the young actor who plays one half of the male duo Claire 'ships'.  Not a social media user, he's completely unaware there are people out there who are reading his character as anything other than 100% straight.  So when Claire brings up the question at a convention, he's flummoxed and reacts badly, lashing out at her for even bringing it up as a possibility.  

With a PR nightmare on their hands, the show's publicists leap into action to placate their small, but very important fan base.  And because Claire is an outspoken and popular member of the online fan community, she's selected to join the convention tour to try and win back the fan base that may have been lost by Forest's homophobic comments. Claire agrees, mainly because she's desperate to get to the show's creator, the only one who can make the fantasy she's spun about these characters a reality.

I liked that Claire was uncertain about her own sexuality throughout the book.  She meets a cute fan artist at the first convention and they keep meeting up.  Their attraction is mutual, but Tess is wholly comfortable with her sexuality and Claire still isn't sure where she sits on the spectrum.  This causes friction between them and more than a few misunderstandings.

Forest was an interesting character too as he learned about what it's like to be an actor on a popular show and have people making assumptions about you as a person based on a character you portray. His ineptitude with social media felt refreshing because it meant he was completely innocent of how the fans perceived him and his character.  Which lead to him making some big changes in himself, his plans for the future and the way he sees the world.

The lengths Claire is willing to go to to get what she wants are hilarious, and somewhat frightening.  Fandom can go too far, methinks...

I'd cautiously recommend this one.  I think if you're part of this community, you might find a lot wrong with the book and the way fandom is portrayed.  But not being part of the community, I didn't pick up on the inaccuracies (although bringing the cause of your PR nightmare on tour with you seems far-fetched to this marketing professional) and could just enjoy the ride.

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

CLAIRE is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. FOREST is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it's a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire's assertion that his character is gay.

Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest's character and his male frenemy. She can't believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he's not. Definitely not.

Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colorful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into? Ship It is a funny, tender, and honest look at all the feels that come with being a fan.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Weekly Goals 16-12-19

Somehow the weekend got away from me and I didn't write anything.  I did read a bit, and do gardening and cleaning and various other chores, but no writing.  So I'm beginning to think this book is not going to get finished by Christmas the way I hoped it might.  But I'm going to try and find time to write this week, even a little bit.

It's my last week at work, and at this stage, I've finished all my major projects so this week is about tidying up and doing all those little admin things I've been putting off because I was too busy.

I haven't done all the Christmas stuff I need to do yet either, so this week I have to focus on that too.  I don't have a lot left to do, but I do have homemade gifts to make.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 13, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 13-12-19

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?

There's only one more week of work before the holidays!

While on some levels that's actually quite terrifying, on others, it's fantastic.  I get three weeks off which is very much needed.  It has been a very long year and I really need a break to recharge for the year ahead.

I haven't done as much writing this week as I would have liked, but hopefully I'll get some done over the weekend.  I'm so close to the end of this book!

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Books I've Read: Without Merit

This was an interesting read for me.  Some of it I really loved, but other parts of it annoyed me a lot.

The main character, Merit, is an interesting one.  She's very flawed, mainly in that she has a fixed, unalterable worldview which makes her very judgmental, especially of her family.  Which is actually kind of justified, because her family are, in fact, pretty messed up.

Actually, even more messed up than Merit initially thinks. Over the course of a few weeks, and a lot of pretty terrible behavior, Merit discovers things about her family, and herself, she thought she understood, but really doesn't.

And in the middle of it all is the too-good-to-be-true boy who manages to see through Merit's facade and find someone worth loving behind it.

One of the things that annoyed me the most about this book was the character names.  They're all weird - Utah, Luck, Sagan, Moby.  I mean, who calls their kids things like that?  I'm not one to go for standard, ordinary names myself, but these were just absurd and I found myself focusing on them rather than the story several times.

The other thing that bugged me was how easily important things seemed to be brushed over.  Like the whole Syrian conflict that seemed to exist in the story solely so Sagan could have a tragic past and a cool line to use on Merit.  I find this kind of thing makes me really uncomfortable. I believe if you're going to use a complex political issue in your book, give it some context and explain it in a way the reader actually learns something about it and why it happened.  Don't use it as shorthand for character motivation.

That said, I did enjoy watching Merit's growing awareness of who she was and who her family members actually were outside her POV.  And Sagan was a sexy love interest, even if he seems, like so many other book boyfriends, too good to be true.  I mean, I want to meet one of these perfect, sensitive guys with wisdom, compassion, great smile and body to die for. 

So I would recommend this book, with a few reservations.  It was a quick, easy read, and enjoyable enough if you don't think too deeply about it.

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

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Weekly Goals 9-12-19

I didn't get as much writing done over the weekend as I had hoped to, so this week it's all about writing the rest of this book.  I have a few things on this week (Christmas party season), so it's going to be a challenge to get enough time to write much, but I'll figure it out.

I also need to get myself organized for Christmas.  I haven't done anything much about it yet.  I need to get on that...

What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 6, 2019

Celebrate the Small Things 6-12-19

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!

My elder son finished school for the year yesterday and won two awards.  He starts work today at 7am and will be working full time over the holidays.  He's going to be exhausted!  Especially since he decided to bike to and from work too.  But I'm super proud of him.

With Christmas looming, my other son and I are going to go into town today to do some Christmas shopping (and other shopping).  I've done most of what I need to do in terms of buying things, but I need to do my hand-made stuff which I give to most of my family because they don't really need things.

And I need to do some writing or this book won't be finished by Christmas as I'd hoped it would be.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

IWSG: December

It's the beginning of December (if you can believe it) so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group to catch up ahead of the holidays.  And here's this month's question:

Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Having had a few days off from my day job recently to try and finish NaNo, I think I have a taste of what my life might be like if I had the financial freedom to be a full-time writer, rather than trying to squeeze my own work into pockets of time stolen from other parts of my life.  For me, this would be the dream.  The time to really live within my stories while I'm writing them.

On a regular day at the moment, I might get a couple of hours to write.  One in the morning and one or so in the evening.  And the evening one is often compromised by the exhaustion of the day that came before it.  Or, if I've had a big day of writing at work, I find I often don't have any words left for my own stuff at the end of the day.

Having a full day stretching ahead of me in which to write would be the real luxury. If this was my real life forever (or even for a year or six months) I'd get up just as early as I do now to get all the business side of writing done - replying to emails, blog posts, publicity stuff - before getting the kids up for school.  Then once I got the kids off to school,  I'd go to the gym and get my exercise in before sitting my butt down in my writing chair for the rest of the day.

Last week I did that for two days and wrote 11K.  Imagine how quickly I could finish drafting a book if every day could be spent like that...  I'd be done in just over two weeks.  And that's assuming I might have a few days that are a little less productive than others.

For me, that would be the dream.  To have those hours to immerse myself in my stories and characters and let them come to life on the page.

Unfortunately, I haven't won the lottery.  And the sales of my published books are not enough to allow me the luxury of not working a full-time day job yet.  If ever.  So for now, I have to just accept that my writing life needs to be shoehorned into the rest of my life somehow, and I'm not going to be writing multiple novels per year.  

What would your dream writing life look like?

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Weekly Goals 2-12-19

Can you believe it's December already?  That's crazy!  One of my kids finishes school for the year on Friday...

This week's goal is to actually finish my NaNo book.  I'm close.  There are a few big scenes left, but I think I can probably finish it by the end of next weekend if I write as much as I have this last weekend.  But I won't have any full days to write this week like I have the last two weeks, unfortunately.

I suppose I had better start thinking about Christmas too...  It's coming pretty soon.

What are your goals this week?