Friday, February 28, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 28-2-20

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!

It has been one of those weeks that felt really long so I'm grateful for the weekend even though it's going to be a busy one.  My son's band is playing at a street festival and after being away last weekend, my house needs some serious cleaning.  Plus my folks are back from the beach house, so we need to go and catch up with them.

So once again, I'm going to struggle to find any hours in which to write.  I'm so close to the end of this story, it's frustrating not to have the time to sit down and just finish it.  Especially now that I pretty much know how I want to end it.

Maybe next weekend will be the weekend I get that time...

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Books I've Read: The Opposite of Falling Apart

As someone who has written a novel about an amputee (Stumped), the description of this book was enough to have me begging NetGalley for the opportunity to read this one. Thankfully they said yes!

Over a year after losing his leg, Jonas still isn't in a good place. He's still angry at the world for allowing this to happen to him and spends most of his time hiding out in his room. His prosthetic leg has been in the closet so long it has dust on it and he quit physical therapy to learn how to use it better months ago. He dragged himself through his last few months at high school on crutches and is preparing to drag himself off to college the same way.

When his mother begs him to run a quick errand, Jonas reluctantly agrees, putting on the now-ill-fitting prosthetic and getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time since the accident. On the way, he freaks out a little at the sight of a truck like the one that ran into him on that terrible day and that moment of distraction sends his vehicle into the back of Brennan's.

Brennan has her own demons. She's struggled with anxiety for years, but has never told anyone quite how crippling it really is. She fights through every day using a mixture of rituals and writing to keep herself together enough to manage a few everyday interactions. She doesn't want to deal with insurance or having to see Jonas again, so tells him not to worry about the dent he's made in her car. He refuses to take no for an answer so they exchange numbers.

Much of Brennan and Jonas' burgeoning relationship develops through the texts they send each other. Both are isolated and largely friendless. Both are dealing with parents who, while well-meaning, are suffocating them. Both are afraid to go to college where things will be unfamiliar, challenging and strange.

Before long, the texts turn into meetings in person. It turns out they are heading to colleges close to each other - so close, one of Jonas' classes is on Brennan's campus. As they struggle through their first semester at college, Jonas and Brennan turn to each other more and more often, finally realizing their friendship is turning into something else, something bigger and far more overwhelming than either are prepared for.

I really enjoyed this book. Both main characters had real problems to deal with and the ways they coped and reacted felt authentic, even when they frustrated me. Jonas and Brennan are sweet kids and I was rooting for them to work out ways to overcome their issues and realize they were better together than they were on their own.

I also liked that their parents were part of the picture and were just as clumsy in the way they dealt with their kids' problems as their kids. It was clear they really loved them and wanted the best for them, but they were no better prepared to deal with these issues.

So I would definitely recommend this one.

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

After losing his leg in a terrible car accident, Jonas Avery can’t wait to start over and go to college. Brennan Davis would like nothing more than to stay home and go to school, so she can keep her anxiety in check. When the two accidentally meet the summer before they move away, they’ll push each other to come to terms with what’s holding them back, even as they’re pulled closer to taking the biggest leap of all—falling in love. The Opposite of Falling Apart has more than 2.1 million reads on Wattpad.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Weekly Goals 24-2-20

As I suspected, I didn't get a lot of writing done over the weekend.  Any, actually.  Although I had a lot of time in the car to let my imagination roam free, so that was good, to a point.

So this week's goal is to finish sketching in the ending to the book-with-no-ending so it's at least got its shape there for me to play with.  Then I can go and fill in the gaps.

And that's about it for goals this week.  Not huge, I know...

What about you?  Anything big planned?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 21-2-20

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'm going away for the weekend!  My bestie is singing in an opera and my partner and I are going to go and see her perform.  I haven't seen her in over a year, so I'm very excited to catch up, not to mention seeing her sing.  It's the first time she's done opera, but I have no doubt she will be incredible.

Unfortunately going away means I'll get little to no writing time this weekend, so once again, the book-without-an-ending will not get finished.  I've done some work on it this week, but not nearly as much as I would have liked.  Maybe I'll take another day off soon to spend a day writing....

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Books I've Read: Snowflake, AZ

This was an interesting book, but not one I enjoyed an enormous amount.  It's about environmental illness and a community built in the desert for those suffering from these illnesses to live without the chemicals and disturbances of the modern world.

The main character is Ash, an eighteen-year-old who stumbles upon Snowflake, Arizona while searching for his step-brother, Bly.  He finds Bly, but also finds much more.

Not long after arriving in Snowflake, Ash succumbs to the illness the other residents suffer from and finds himself seriously debilitated by it.  When he goes to a doctor, she tells him it's all in his mind, that there is nothing physically wrong with him.  Yet any time Ash ventures away from Snowflake with its specially built houses, his illness worsens.

So he stays in Snowflake, learning all he can from the eccentric group of residents scattered through the high-altitude desert.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is imploding in some mysterious way, but cloistered away in the safety of this community, Ash is unaware.

I found this book a frustrating read.  I found the concept interesting, but something about the way it was written felt really distancing and I never really warmed to any of the characters, especially Ash, the narrator.  A lot of things happened to him, but I never felt like he had any real agency or did anything to change or drive his own destiny.  He just drifted through the story, absorbing things other people told him or that he read in a way that made me feel like he was being constantly manipulated by everyone around him.

I wasn't even convinced that his illness wasn't something he picked up from one of the others in the desert community.  I wanted to believe he was genuinely ill and that this environmentally caused illness was real, but because he seemed so suggestible, it was difficult not to believe he was made ill because he heard about these illnesses from the people around him.  Ash needed somewhere to belong, and by becoming sick like the others, he became a part of the community.

So this is one of those books that doesn't quite manage to execute its ideas as well as I might have hoped.  That said, it's still interesting and there are some ideas in there that will probably stick with me for a while.

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

Ash gets on a Greyhound bus to the place Bly was last seen: Snowflake, Arizona. Six thousand feet up in the wide red desert, Ash meets Mona; her goat, Socrates; her dog, Cooper; and finds stepbrother Bly, too.

In their ramshackle homes, the walls lined with tinfoil, Mona and her neighbors are all sick. But this isn’t any ordinary sickness: modern life has poisoned them, and when Ash too falls ill, the doctor’s response is, “It’s all in your mind.” Meanwhile, as Ash lives through a cycle of illness and recovery and loss, the world beyond is succumbing to its own affliction: a breakdown of civilization only distantly perceived by Ash and the isolated residents of Snowflake, from which there may or may not be a chance for recovery. This humane and thoughtful novel is about resilience, trust, family, and love, when all seems lost.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Weekly Goals 17-2-20

I didn't get much writing done last week so this week is still about finishing the book I've struggled to finish.  I don't think I'll get a lot of writing time this week either, especially since I'm going away this weekend, but I'll do what I can.

And that's about it for this week...  Not exciting is it?  Wish I had something more I could offer, but when I'm busy at work, I have to keep my goals limited or I'll be disappointed with myself when I don't meet them.

What are your goals for the week?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 14-2-20

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?

Well, it's Valentine's Day, so I guess I'm celebrating love.  I don't really do Valentine's Day, but it's always nice to reflect a little about those you love and all the different kinds of love there are in the world.

Because Valentine's Day isn't just about romantic love, it can also be about loving your friends and about loving your family.

So celebrate the people you love, not just on Valentine's Day, but every day.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Books I've Read: The Sky Is Mine

I have really mixed feelings about this book. It deals with some really complex and relevant issues that need to be discussed. But I feel like it tries to cover too much for a single book and every one of the issues gets a little short changed as a result.

There's date rape, coercion, psychological and physical domestic abuse, sexting, revenge porn, abortion and more, all wrapped up between the covers of this single novel. All important topics to explore in YA literature, but maybe not all in the same book.

The central character is Izzy, and as the book begins, she's dealing with the fallout from a party where she got drunk, had sex with a guy she didn't like much who then shared photos of her in a compromising position all over their school. He claims to have more photos and says he'll share them if she doesn't continue to be at his beck and call.

To complicate things further, just getting out of her house is a challenge thanks to the man her mother married a few years back. A man who is both verbally and physically abusive to both Izzy and her mother. He's controlling and has them both so terrified they tend to jump when he says to, just to keep the peace.

And it doesn't help that Izzy's best friend has fallen in love and is far more interested in finding ways to spend time with her girlfriend than in hearing about Izzy's problems.

I thought this book was really well written. Some of the descriptions were beautiful, unusual and really evocative. I just felt like it was trying to cover too much ground, something that became even more apparent as I reached the end of the book and so many different threads needed to be tied up. Compared to the pace in the rest of the book, the ending felt rushed and wasn't as satisfying as I was hoping for as a result.

I think books like this are really important because they can start a conversation about things that are difficult to talk about. I just wish this one had focused on fewer issues because none of them really got enough room to breathe before being crowded out by another, competing issue.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this in advance.

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

No one has ever asked Izzy what she wants. She's about to change all that...

In a house adept at sweeping problems under the carpet, seventeen-year-old Izzy feels silenced. As her safety grows uncertain, Izzy know three things for sure. She knows not to tell her mother that Jacob Mansfield has been threatening to spread those kinds of photos around college. She knows to quiet the grief that she's been abandoned by her best friend Grace. And, seeing her mother conceal the truth of her stepdad's control, Izzy also knows not to mention how her heart splinters and her stomach churns whenever he enters a room.

When the flimsy fabric of their life starts to unravel, Izzy and her mum must find their way out of the silence and use the power in their voices to rediscover their worth.

For fans of Sara Barnard, Louise O’Neill and E. Lockhart, The Sky is Mine is a powerful exploration of rape culture and domestic abuse, and a moving story of women learning to love themselves enough to demand to be heard.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Weekly Goals 10-2-20

After just about finishing the book last week, my goal this week is to actually finish it.  I don't know if I'm going to get a lot of writing time this week, but hopefully I can knock out the epilogue and then go back to the point I feel needs some padding out to make the pacing work.

And that's really it for this week...

What are your goals?

Friday, February 7, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 7-2-20

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 almost finished the book I've been struggling with off and on since last year (longer if you remember I wrote the beginning of it in NaNo about 2 years ago).  I wrote the ending and am now just getting into the epilogue which I feel is needed.

It's not finished by a long shot, but having written an ending makes it feel like I can finish it now.  I need to go back and fill in a little bit in the middle where I think the pacing is off and events happen too quickly, but other than that, I think I may have something to share with readers soon.

I'm having a long weekend this weekend because Thursday was a public holiday and I took Friday off too to write.  The rest of the weekend is going to be busy with household chores, family and my son's band playing a gig at a local fair.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

IWSG - February

It's the first Wednesday in February, so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

This month's question is a good one!

Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?

I can answer this with a definitive yes.  

I often use prompts to kickstart my writing, usually written prompts, but on occasion I have been inspired by visual prompts.  One of my first short stories to be published, Free, was inspired by a visual prompt.  It was a photograph of an old car with the driver's elbow, clad in leather, poking from the window.

The entire of my Beach House series of stories were inspired by photo prompts.  The Dock, by a photograph of a jetty protruding into the sea, The Kite by an enormous kite, trailing tails bobbing across the sky and The Mine Shaft by a picture of an abandoned mine, overgrown now, and almost invisible amongst the trees that had grown up around it.  The Treehouse, which is probably my favorite in this series, was even more complicated in that it was born out of a series of prompts, one photograph of a gnarled old tree, two words that needed to be used (I can't remember what they were now, I'm afraid) and a character with a broken leg.

But it's not just photographs or paintings that inspire me.  I work in film and I watch a lot of films.  Often something, usually a single scene or conversation, will inspire me.  The Sidewalk's Regrets was born out of a single line in a documentary about a guitarist friend of mine.  The whole book came to me, fully formed, almost overnight from that one line.  And the weirdest thing is, when I went back and re-watched the doco when the book was finished, I couldn't figure out what the line was that was the inspiration.

Stumped was also inspired by a documentary, this one about an Australian sex worker.  I had the pleasure of meeting her when the film had its first screenings in New Zealand and she was among the most inspirational people I've ever met.  As Stumped developed and changed with feedback from agents and publishers, the thing that she said in the film that inspired me to write the book in the first place ended up getting edited out because readers found it hard to believe.  Truth really is stranger than fiction...

Do you like to use prompts to kickstart your writing?  What works better for you, visual prompts or written ones?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Weekly Goals 3-2-10

Wow.  It's February already?  How did that happen?

I have a short week at work this week because there's a public holiday on Thursday and I've taken Friday off as well to get a four-day weekend.  And since the kids are going to be at school, that Friday is going to be a writing day.

I think I finally figured out how to end that book I couldn't finish last year, so that's my project this week - to write that ending.  I also think I need to write a little more in the middle of the book because things feel a little rushed in there.  But hopefully, by the end of the long weekend I'll have something to send to my critique partners.

What are your goals this week?