Sunday, March 29, 2020

Weekly Goals 30-3-20

Another week swings by so what are my goals?

You know what?  I haven't thought that much about it.  With the world so crazy, just getting through each day is enough.

But here goes...

My goals this week are to exercise every day and to get out of the house to walk at least three times during the day, even if it is just around the block.  I will also ensure my younger son goes out for a walk at least once a day.  Otherwise he'll just spend his entire day in bed, glued to his tablet.

I will also try to write.  I've been struggling with it the last coupe of weeks because what's going on in the world is so huge and overwhelming, my little stories seem pointless and trivial.  But even if I can't work on any of the novel projects I have on the go, my goal is to write a little piece of short fiction each day.

And that's about it for goals.  It's hard to plan for the future when you don't know what bombshell the world is going to drop on you next.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 27-3-20

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 feeling lucky this week, so I'm celebrating that.

On Wednesday at midnight the country went into lockdown to try and stop the spread of COVID-19.  So for four weeks the entire county, apart from a limited number of people considered essential workers have to stay at home.

Then we were told the CEO of our business had tested positive for the virus.  She worked in the office with us for two and a half days last week during the period she would have been infectious, so all of a sudden everyone who was in the office during that time is considered a close contact.

And then another person who works with me also tested positive.

So I'm feeling lucky.  It's been 10 days since I last saw the CEO since she went home sick, and then we all tested out remote working capabilities for a couple of days (which has now become indefinite) and I have no symptoms.  Apparently if you're going to get it, symptoms generally show up within 4-7 days of contact, but it can be as much as 11 days.  If I'm not sick by tomorrow night, I think I can probably consider myself safe.

For now.

The weird thing about this situation is that my 15-year-old son is now considered an essential worker because he works in a supermarket.  Which means that once my 14-day isolation period is over, he can go back to work.  And once he does that, he'll be at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it home to all of us.  I know they are taking a lot of extra safety precautions at supermarkets, but that doesn't change that there are a lot of idiots out there.  And not everyone seems to be taking this lockdown as seriously as they should be.

But I guess we'll deal with it.  The school holidays started early, so as of today the kids have no school for two weeks, not even the online school they've been doing this week.  I'd rather have him out there being useful in the world, making a difference, than mooching around his room playing video games.

Welcome to our new normal, people!

How are you dealing with the lockdown (assuming wherever you are is locked down)?  Does it get any easier?  It's only been three days and I'm already very over being stuck in the house...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Books I've Read: Sparrow

There was a lot I liked about this book, but probably an equal amount I didn't like.

It's about a girl called Sparrow, a talented dancer in a small town who is haunted by her past to a degree that threatens her future.  She gets into a relationship with a handsome player who treats her like crap and starts trying to alienate her from her friends.

In a second POV we get Lucas's story.  Lucas is Sparrow's dance partner and all-around nice guy.  He's also in love with her, so his jealousy and suspicion of the above-mentioned handsome player starts off feeling like sour grapes.

I didn't feel like this was a book that really needed a second POV character, especially since each time Lucas stepped into the story, we were taken back in time so we could see the events of the previous section through his eyes.  This really slowed the book down and seeing the same events again didn't really add much to the story.  And Lucas is far too much the good-guy to be truly interesting.  Even when he gave in to his temper and let his rage out, he still came across as a nice guy.

The other thing I really didn't like about the book was how quickly Sparrow's relationship with Tristan developed.  It didn't really develop,  She met him, they went out, and suddenly they were in a relationship and in love.  I never understood the connection or what made her think he loved her or why she loved him.  Nothing in any of his actions made me believe that.  The thing with abusive relationships is that before they become manipulative and dangerous, there has to be something real and powerful there.  Otherwise no one would stay in one.  Staying is hoping things will go back to being the perfect thing that existed to begin with.

While ballet is obviously important to Sparrow and Lucas, it isn't really a huge part of the book, so if you're looking for a story that delves deep into the ballet world, this isn't the book for you.  This is much more a delve into the psyche of a young woman whose traumatic past has her confused about what love actually looks and feels like.

And as that, it does work on many levels.  There are just a few too many distractions around this core plot, and not enough realistic set up in the early part of the book to sustain the later parts.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this one in advance.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Weekly Goals 23-3-20

It's kind of difficult to make goals when every day the world seems to shift further into an Orwellian nightmare.  But we must keep going, so I'm going to try to set some goals that may or may not be achievable in the current climate.

I got edits on my novella for the anthology over the weekend, so my first goal this week is to turn those around and get them turned in before the deadline.

My second goal is to try and get myself settled into working from home.  It's not something I'm used to doing except the odd day here or there when I had a specific project I had to focus on intensely.  So being here on my own every day (assuming we don't go back into the office tomorrow as anticipated) is going to take some getting used to.

My third goal is to keep using the time I usually commute to work to exercise.  The gym is unlikely to stay open much longer, so I can't count on being able to go there, and the classes aren't at times that are convenient if I'm working at home.

And my final goal is to try to get some writing done.  I've been struggling with this over the last week because it seems so irrelevant to write about the world before this happened.  Yet it's impossible to write about the world as it is now because we have no idea what is going to happen next...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 20-3-20

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, not a lot actually.  The world seems to be getting crazier by the day.  Just last week I was celebrating that life here didn't seem to be changing too much, but all that is different now.  The borders to my country are closed.  Gatherings of 100 people or more are banned and this number is likely to get smaller and smaller.

We're working at home today and Monday, to test that we actually can.  Supposedly we're going back to the office on Tuesday, but when we left last night, it felt very much like we were leaving for much longer than just a few days.

I don't have a problem with working from home.  In fact, when I need to write something big and important, I find I can focus much better at home without all the noise and chatter from my colleagues.  But that's usually a single day away from the office and all the little things you pick up on by just being there amongst people.  If this turns out to be a long-term thing, I'm not sure how much I'm going to like it.

So far the schools are still open, so at least I don't have to try and supervise the kids doing online school at the same time as trying to manage my workload.  But for how long, I'm not sure.

If I'm looking for something to celebrate, I guess it's that I'm not sick.

And I still have a job, unlike many others people in the creative community who suddenly find themselves unable to make a living.   If you do one thing this weekend, do something to support the arts.  Buy an album from a musician whose tour has been cancelled.  Support comedians and actors whose shows have been suspended or postponed. A lot of performers are making material available online.  Watch it.  And please, if you can, pay for it.  If you can still go to the movies, go to the movies and support an independent cinema.  Even if there is nothing on you REALLY want to see.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Books I've Read: Every Reason We Shouldn't

I really enjoyed this one.  I'm not usually a huge fan of sports books, but I used to love figure skating so this instantly appealed to me.

Olivia's parents were gold medal Olympians, and until recently, Olivia was following in their footsteps.  But a disastrous performance at a competition has ended her career as a skater and now she's trying out life as a 'normal' teen.  But her normal isn't actually all that normal.  Her parents own a skating rink and it's struggling.  Olivia's dad has gone out on tour to try and make some money, leaving Olivia and her mother, who is suffering from a back injury, to run the rink.  But Olivia's mother's back injury is getting worse and some days she can barely make it to the rink, let alone teach her classes.

Much of the responsibility for running the rink falls to Mack, Olivia's new best friend and a recent single parent dealing with the way having a baby changes all your life-plans.  She's also a roller-derby fan, desperate to get good enough to join the team.

When the Choi family comes to town, things start looking up for the rink.  Jonah Choi is a speed skater with Olympic potential and his family will spare no expense to get him that gold.  Olivia and Jonah recognize something in each other and are soon finding ways to hang out together both on and off the ice.  Their relationship is sweet and based very much on their mutual understanding of the competitive skating world.

The characters in this story were interesting and well drawn and their world felt very real.  Olivia's self-sufficiency in the face of her parents' absence was heartbreakingly realistic. And the skating world in which both Jonah and Olivia are a part of felt authentic.

So I'd recommend this one to anyone who is looking for a book that realistically portrays what it's like to be a high-performancce athlete and anyone who is looking for a sweet, young romance.

Thanks to Netgalley for letting me read this one in advance.

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

Warning: Contains family expectations, delightful banter, great romantic tension, skating (all kinds!), Korean pastries, and all the feels.

Fifteen-year-old, biracial figure skater Olivia Kennedy’s Olympic dreams have ended. She's bitter, but enjoying life as a regular teenager instead of an athlete... until Jonah Choi starts training at her family's struggling rink. Jonah's driven, talented, going for the Olympics in speed skating, completely annoying… and totally gorgeous. Between teasing Jonah, helping her best friend try out for roller derby, figuring out life as a normal teen and keeping the family business running, Olivia's got her hands full. But will rivalry bring her closer to Jonah, or drive them apart?

Every Reason We Shouldn't by Sara Fujimura is a charming multicultural romance perfect for the many fans of Jenny Han and Rainbow Rowell.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Weekly Goals 16-3-20

I did what I planned to do and wrote the ending for Standing Too Close.  Unfortunately, I'm not that happy with it, so I'm going to have to have another bash at it.  I think my MC needs to be tougher and force something to change in a significant way.  So that's my goal this week.  To rewrite that ending.

And that's about it.  Apart from trying to keep myself away from anyone who might have been near the coronavirus....

What are your goals this week?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Celebrate the Small things 13-3-20

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?

Given the way the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket, I'm celebrating the fact life is still pretty normal here.  I don't have Covid-19 and so far I haven't had to go into quarantine because of being in contact with someone who has.  There don't appear to have been any cases in my city (yet).  The majority of events are still going ahead and apart from the supermarkets running out of hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial soap and toilet paper, life seems to be ticking along as usual.

Not sure how much longer it's going to last, so I'm making the most of it while I can.  And making the most of the last of the summer weather.  Daylight saving ends in a couple of weeks and once that happens, I won't be able to ride my bike to and from work anymore because it will be too dark in the evenings.  So making the most of it now.  Excercising while commuting saves a lot of time!  I don't. have to find time in my day to go to the gym.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Books I've Read: Junk Magic and Guitar Dreams

This was one of those frustrating books where I really liked part of the story, and found another part of it just didn't work for me.

Otter is a fifteen-year-old boy whose mother has just died from cancer.  Before she died, she made sure he was capable of living alone and made the arrangements for him to be emancipated so he wouldn't have to face foster care or a group home.  Now Otter lives alone in a trailer park, struggling to keep the lights on and himself fed on what he earns working part time at a car wash.

Life is pretty grim, but Otter keeps himself going with the dreams of what might happen once his band hits the big time.  They have their first big gig coming up, so it's possible...  And in the meantime, there's his biker neighbor to hang out with when things get too much to take.  The biker neighbor who starts pressuring him to join his group called Odin's Warriors.

Just when life is complicated enough, Otter falls for the new singer who joins the band.  Falls hard and fast.  But Amber doesn't seem to notice his epic crush.  Or if she does, she doesn't care.

When Otter receives a box of stuff his grandfather has left him, he doesn't think much of it.  He had to miss a day of work to schlepp downtown to pick it up, and when he opens it, it's full of garbage he probably won't even be able to pawn.  But when he picks out an item from the box, he's suddenly overwhelmed by memories.  And they're not his own.

I liked Otter as a character.  He was both tough and vulnerable, stubborn and impressionable.  I wanted to adopt him and bring him home to live with me.  He made stupid decisions and was too proud to ask for help even when he desperately needed it.  His life was so hard, but a lot of that was his own doing because there were people trying to make things easier for him all the way through. He just couldn't or wouldn't see it.

What I didn't like about the book was the magical way the objects in his grandfather's box gave him memories.  This book was so gritty and realistic in depicting Otter's life, the sudden appearance of magical memory-giving artifacts didn't really gel with me even if the memories did give Otter a deeper understand of his family and who he really is.

It's probably just me, because I'm not a huge fan of fantasy or magic.  There was nothing really wrong with the memories or the information they gave Otter about where he came from, but I just didn't really buy the magical way this information was provided to him.  But like I say, that's probably just me...

Thank you NetGalley for letting me read this one in advance.

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

A guitar, a box of junk, and a pile of trouble...

Fifteen-year-old Otter is in a dark place. When he loses his mom to cancer, Child Services wants to put him in foster care, or even a home for troubled youth.

Living on his own, he’s one bad decision away from the street. His band’s first gig is only two weeks away, but his crush on their new lead singer has him tied in knots.

Then he inherits a box of random junk from a dead grandfather he barely knew. Can his grandfather’s memories help Otter win the girl of his dreams, reconnect with his family, and keep him out of juvenile detention...maybe even become a rock star?

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Weekly Goals 9-3-20

I had a busy weekend, but did manage to make some headway with ending Standing Too Close.  I'm SO close to being done!  I'm midway through the final scene of the epilogue.  So close to the end!

Obviously my goal this week is to write 'the end' after finishing that scene, even though I know the book isn't actually finished once I do that.  I need to fix something that's been bugging me in the middle.

But I feel like I'm almost at a point where I can start asking if people might be free to read the thing for me.  So if you're interested, let me know.  It'll probably be a couple of weeks, but it's always nice to know there are people waiting for it.  Kind of creates a deadline to meet...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 6-3-20

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's been one of those really, really long weeks so I'm ridiculously glad to have a couple of days off.  I'm feeling very tired today, so am looking forward to getting some sleep over the weekend.  Sleep is definitely something to celebrate!  During the week I generally get around 5 or so hours, so if I can get a couple extra in on a Sunday, I do!

I also haven't managed to get a lot of writing done this week (although I did read through an unfinished MS and discovered it's not nearly as terrible as I suspected it would be), so am looking forward to getting some time to really knuckle down to finishing Standing Too Close.

My partner and I are going out for dinner with some friends on Saturday which has been in the works for MONTHS now.  We keep scheduling and having to cancel because one or another of us (or our kids) has something on. So I'm looking forward to that.  We're going to one of my favorite restaurants.

And that's about it for me this week.  What are you celebrating this weekend?

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

IWSG - March 2020

It's the first Wednesday in March so it's time to join the Insecure Writer's Support Group.  This month's question is:

Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

You know, I haven't.  My family doesn't have any particularly unusual customs or traditions (or at least I don't think they do) so there is nothing of note to mine for my stories.  I'm actually struggling to think if any of my stories even have holidays included in them...  I don't think they do.

Hmmmm.....  Maybe that's an opportunity I'm missing out on.  

I am going to try and rectify this and write a holiday scene into my next book.  And I will try and find something unique to add to it from my own family's way of celebrating holidays.  Although the only thing I can think of is that at Christmas, because my father's family were Jewish, we always have bagels with lox for breakfast before we get to presents and the rest of Christmas.

We don't have any special thing we do for people on their birthdays or any other holiday.  We don't celebrate Easter and there is no Thanksgiving in New Zealand (unfortunately - it was always my favorite holiday) and I can't think of any other holiday that would be celebrated with anything other than a day off from work.  Which is, of course, something to celebrate.

Do you have any unique family traditions that show up in your stories?

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Books I've Read: The Vinyl Underground

I really enjoyed this piece of historical fiction.  Set in 1968, Ronnie's brother, Bruce,  has recently been killed in Vietnam.  Now he's about to graduate and the draft hangs over him.  Despite having already lost one son to the war, Ronnie's father is determined to see his second son honor the country with his service too.

When Ronnie meets Hana, the new girl who moves in across the street, his thinking begins to change.  She's half-Japanese and faces daily slurs about her race at the still-segregated school they attend in small-town Florida.  Having come from Chicago, Hana has new ideas about the war and justice and many other things Ronnie has never thought about before.

Along with Ronnie's best friend, Milo, and Bruce's best friend Lewis, Ronnie and Hana start up a club, The Vinyl Underground, as a way to share the music all four kid love.  But their weekly meetings become more politically charged as the conversation flows.  Before too long, the group have come up with an audacious plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted.

Things should calm down for Ronnie once the threat of going to war is lifted from his future, but instead, an act of racially charged violence shatters their tight-knit group and together they plan an act of revenge that may just change the lives of their peers forever.

The characters in this book feel very real and complex.  They are children, yet face the very real possibility of being sent to a foreign country to be killed.  How they are expected to go to school and study the heroics of American politicians in the face of this level of terror is beyond me.  This would have been a very real fear at this time, and I loved how creative these characters are in their planning.

I would definitely recommend this one, even if you're not interested in historical fiction.  The themes explored here are just a relevant today.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review, so thanks, NetGalley!

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

During the tumultuous year of 1968, four teens are drawn together: Ronnie Bingham, who is grieving his brother’s death in Vietnam; Milo, Ronnie’s bookish best friend; “Ramrod,” a star athlete who is secretly avoiding the draft; and Hana, the new girl, a half-Japanese badass rock-n-roller whose presence doesn’t sit well with their segregated high school.

The four outcasts find sanctuary in “The Vinyl Underground,” a record club where they spin music, joke, debate, and escape the stifling norms of their small southern town. But Ronnie’s eighteenth birthday is looming. Together, they hatch a plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted. But when a horrific act of racial-charged violence rocks the gang to their core, they decide it’s time for an epic act of rebellion.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Weekly Goals 2-3-20

Can you believe it's already March?  The year is spinning away from underneath me!

I had a good weekend, but I didn't get any writing done so it wasn't great.  Standing Too Close still doesn't have its ending written.  So that's my goal for this week.  Get the ending done.  Then my goal for the month is to get the rest of the book finished.   I'm determined to get this one out to readers in April.  It's been far too long to get it to this point.

So that's my goal for both the week and the month.  What are your goals?