Sunday, May 31, 2020

Weekly Goals 1-6-20

Can you believe it's June already?  I feel like our summer holidays were about ten minutes ago, and here we are having our last public holiday until October.

I guess that two months of lockdown really screwed with my sense of time...

I managed to get a lot of writing done over the weekend and am feeling pretty positive about being able to finish this revision in the next week or two.  So my goal this week is to keep up that momentum and keep working through the various parts of the book that need fixing.

My other goal is to figure out how to keep up the awesome amount of exercise I managed to do during lockdown.  With it getting dark by 5pm, I can't ride my bike to work anymore, and I don't have that lovely hour of commuting time to work with that I had while working at home.  Unfortunately, I now need that time to actually, y'know, commute.

And that's about it for goals this week.  What are you hoping to achieve this week?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 29-5-20

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 a long weekend!  

Yes, it's Queen's Birthday weekend, so Monday is a holiday.  The kids get five days off because apparently they've worked so hard doing online school over the lockdown and deserve an extra long weekend.  The school obviously didn't see my kids doing online school during lockdown...  I feel like I'm the one who deserves the extra-long weekend.

I have no real plans for the long weekend, other than writing, cleaning and hopefully going to the movies.  Must take a look at what's on and when...  I have a vague idea about making pancakes one day too.  For some reason I have a hankering for pancakes.

Life feels like it's getting back to normal.  There have been no new COVID cases this week and yesterday the office felt almost lively again.  Wednesday was the complete opposite - I was the only person working on my side of the building and there was only one person working on the other side.  I'm working from home today, but I think next week I may go back to the office full-time.  It just works better for me unless I have a big writing project I need to get on with.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Books I've Read: Yes No Maybe So

My first trip back to the library after lockdown and I was lucky enough to find this book that was on my TBR list!

Set during a local election campaign, this is a cross-race, cross-religious romance with a strong political message.  Jamie is a shy, socially anxious guy who struggles to speak to strangers.  Forget about speaking in public.  So he's perfectly happy to be behind the scenes for his state senator's election campaign, stuffing envelopes, fetching coffee or whatever.  But everything changes when he's paired up with Maya to go canvassing door to door.

Maya isn't having a great summer.  Her parents are separating and her best friend is so busy working and preparing to go to college she seems to have forgotten she even has a best friend. Maya's mother suggests getting involved with the campaign might give her days some purpose and Maya grudgingly agrees even if it does mean hanging out with a childhood friend she hasn't seen in years.

As Jamie and Maya get more deeply involved in the campaign and what it means to them and the people around them, they realize that they have more in common than they might have thought.  The more time they spend together, the more they enjoy each other's company.  But no romance runs smoothly and things get more complicated when one person is Jewish American and the other is from an Indian Muslim background.

I enjoyed this book.  It was light and fun and Jamie was so adorably inept.  Yet under all the frothy romance there was some strong messaging about hate speech, politics and speaking up for what you believe in.  There was also some messaging around the power of social media to invoke change (and, as usual, create chaos for our happy couple).

I believe strongly that everyone who has the right to vote, should vote.  People have no right to complain about the political situation they're in if they didn't use their right to vote, even if their candidate didn't win.  Yet I felt this message was pushed a little too hard through this book.  The political campaign wasn't just the background for the romance at the forefront of the book, it felt like the reason for the book.  Like the authors were really, really intent on getting their political message across, at any cost.

Now I'm all for messages in books and for books to teach readers things, but I hate it when I feel like an author is bashing me over the head with their ideology.  Even if I'm on the same page as them.  So I didn't love this book as much as I wanted to.

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

New York Times bestselling authors Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed have crafted a resonant, funny, and memorable story about the power of love and resistance.

Jamie Goldberg is cool with volunteering for his local state senate candidate—as long as he’s behind the scenes. When it comes to speaking to strangers (or, let’s face it, speaking at allto almost anyone), Jamie’s a choke artist. There’s no way he’d ever knock on doors to ask people for their votes…until he meets Maya.

Maya Rehman’s having the worst Ramadan ever. Her best friend is too busy to hang out, her summer trip is canceled, and now her parents are separating. Why her mother thinks the solution to her problems is political canvassing—with some awkward dude she hardly knows—is beyond her.

Going door to door isn’t exactly glamorous, but maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world. After all, the polls are getting closer—and so are Maya and Jamie. Mastering local activism is one thing. Navigating the cross-cultural romance of the century is another thing entirely.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Weekly Goals 25-5-20

I had a pretty productive writing weekend, although I feel like the scenes I'm working on are going on too long.  But I'll finish them and then we can see how they fit into the whole.

So my goal this week is to keep going with these changes.  I think I'm almost at the point where I can knit the new stuff I'm written into what I already had and move on to the next place I need to make changes.  And with next weekend being a long weekend, I hope to make some real progress.

My other goal this week is to go to the movies.  I was hoping to go this weekend, but there was nothing on I wanted to see at a time I wanted to go, so fingers crossed this week will be different.  My local cinema re-opened on Thursday, but they are only running two sessions a day at the moment which is a little limiting. Fingers crossed this week they have something I would like to see at a time I can go.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 22-5-20

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?

We've had another great week here, with no new COVID-19 cases in 4 days.  Almost all the people who have had it are recovered and only one person remains in hospital.  The death toll sits at 21.  It's starting to feel like we've actually managed to get this thing under control.

Things are opening up again, albeit a little differently than before.  Hand sanitizer is everywhere.  You can't go into a store or public building without having to sanitize your hands.  You also have to write down your name and address everywhere you go, to make contact tracing easier.  But basically, things are starting to feel more like normal.

I've been into the office three days this week and taking the bus hasn't been nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be.  Practically no one is using the buses so having them at 40% capacity hasn't been a problem at all.  It seems that a lot of people have decided to just keep working at home, so traffic hasn't been horrible either.

Being back at the office is really nice.  The companionship, for one thing, but even more so, the separation of work and home.  At 5:30 I can just leave and not have my computer sitting on my kitchen bench glaring at me every time I walk by.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Books I've Read: Four Days of You and Me

I've been a big fan of Miranda Kenneally's for some time now, so I might have squeed a little when NetGalley approved me for this ARC.  Kenneally writes great girl characters who take charge of their own lives and destinies, even when they are doing something unexpected or unusual.

Or at least, that's what I expect from a Kenneally novel.

This one is different.

Set over four years and four class trips, the book follows Lulu and Alex as their relationship changes through the years.  Initially enemies thanks to something that happened back in grade school, Lulu and Alex find themselves drawn to one another after getting locked into an escape room together while on a field trip to a museum.

Lulu is a good girl, shy and bookish. She spends a lot of time in her room working on a graphic novel she's been writing for years.  Alex is a baseball player and spends most of his spare time working at his family's pizza restaurant.  He runs with the popular crowd at school and has the sense of entitlement to match.

Yet somehow, Lulu and Alex work.  Until they don't.  But even then, they can't stop looking at one another.  Even when each of them is dating someone else.

This is a fairly straightforward romance novel with all the usual falling in and out of love, yearning and angst.  Because we only saw the characters for brief moments in each of the four years, we only saw the key moments in their relationship rather than the fullness of it.

I think I would have liked this more if the characters had felt more authentic.  Alex was both a douche and too good to be true at the same time, while Lulu was more insipid than I would have expected from a Miranda Keneally girl.  Quirks the characters were given felt like identifying markers rather than organic parts of real people.  A boy with a troubled home.  A vegan.  A gay athlete unwilling to come out.

But despite these things, I did enjoy reading the book.  The jumping around in time was a fun way to see how the relationship grew and changed over time.  And the different places they went on their school trips was interesting too.  I was almost embarrassed for them in London when they acted so much like typical American tourists...

So while this is not my favorite book by this author, I don't regret reading it.

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

A new swoon-worthy romance following a couple's love story on the same date over four years.

Every May 7, the students at Coffee County High School take a class trip. And every year, Lulu’s relationship with Alex Rouvelis gets a little more complicated. Freshman year, they went from sworn enemies to more than friends after a close encounter in an escape room. It’s been hard for Lulu to quit Alex ever since.

Through breakups, make ups, and dating other people, each year’s class trip brings the pair back together and forces them to confront their undeniable connection. From the science museum to an amusement park, from New York City to London, Lulu learns one thing is for sure: love is the biggest trip of all.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Weekly Goals 18-5-20

This week life begins to go back to to normal.  I'm going into the office today instead of working from home.  It's going to be weird being around people who are not my family, but I'm looking forward to it.  I suspect it might be just as tiring as I found those first couple of weeks working at home.  I have a feeling public transport is going to be a mess because they are not putting on more buses even though the ones they have are only able to take 40% of their usual capacity.  Which was probably fine last week, but now the kids are going back to school, it's going to be chaos.

So I'm keeping my goals small this week.  I didn't do as much writing over the weekend as I wanted to, but I did submit a novel to a publisher and they asked for a dreaded synopsis, so I wrote a synopsis.  I don't think it's a great synopsis, but I think I did manage to capture a little of my MC's voice in it.   I guess we'll see if it worked when I hear back in a couple of months.

This week I want to get back to fixing the issues in Standing Too Close.  I can probably finish the section I'm working on in a couple of days, so this week I need to get my butt into my chair and actually write.  But I know it probably won't happen until the weekend.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 15-5-20

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 my birthday!

So I'm celebrating that today.  We moved into Level 2 of the the COVID-19 response yesterday which means things are starting to re-open.  Since one of my sons is working tonight and the other is going to sleep over with his best friend who he hasn't seen for 8 weeks, my partner and I are going out for dinner.  Will be interesting to see how the restaurants manage the strict social distancing rules.

We're going to have dinner with our parents on Sunday which will be the first time I've seen my parents since the lockdown began.  My partner went and visited his dad last weekend, but the kids and I stayed home.  He's in his 90s and there's no point taking any chances.  So Sunday will be the first time we've all been together since mid-March.

Cinemas are opening up again too, although at limited capacity.  If my local one is open this weekend, I might go and see a movie.  I know there's not going to be anything new on, but there were a few things I hadn't seen before the lockdown that might find their way back on screen.

We're going back to the office on Monday which I'm looking forward to.  I'm sick of talking to the little discs on Teams...  Only three days a week to begin with so there are never too many people in the office at the same time, but it will be nice to be around people again.

We've had no new cases of the virus in three days now, so I'm feeling hopeful that the severe lockdown our government put in place has done its job.  But I guess we'll find out over the next couple of weeks, once people start moving around and mingling again.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Books I've Read: Finding Balance

There was a lot to like about this book.  It deals with two different experiences of being a cancer survivor which is not something I've seen in a book before.

Mari can't hide the fact she's had cancer.  It took one of her legs and because of the nature of her amputation, a prosthetic leg isn't comfortable or the best option for her.  She's used to people looking at her as she navigates the world on her pink crutches, and even deals with the odd fall now and then with humor and grace.

Jase had leukemia as a young child and barely remembers the experience.  When he started high school, he made the conscious decision not to tell anyone about it after dealing with some vicious bullying in middle school.  The only time he ever really thinks about being a survivor is at the summer camp for cancer survivors he's been going to for years.  A summer camp where he and Mari are best friends.

When Mari transfers to Jase's school, he's terrified their cancer connection might be discovered and his secret revealed.  So instead of helping Mari settle in, he's a jerk to her.  But he can't deny the attraction he feels for her.

Mari is hurt by Jase's attitude to her, and further humiliated by his girlfriend's ignorant and insensitive remarks.  She and Jase were so close at camp.  What happened to change that?

The book navigates these two survivors' stories as they struggle to understand their feelings for each other and a world that sees each of them differently.

I liked the way this book explored the idea of visible and invisible disability and how people view them differently.  It's not a subject I've seen covered often in YA books and it's something so many people deal with every day.  Jase was a jerk through a lot of the book, but I felt like this behavior was realistic given his past and his desire not to been seen through the cancer lens.  His growth through the book was the most significant and it was gratifying to see the way his friendship with Mari changed his perspective on the world and his place in it.

Some of the characters, particularly Jase's ex-girlfriend Lindsay and her friends were painted a little too broadly for my liking.  They were too clueless and too mean to feel realistic. I mean, at seventeen you should know cancer isn't contagious...

But overall, this was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading.  I didn't even realize it was the second book in a series until after I'd finished it!  Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it in advance.

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

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you?

Monday, May 11, 2020

New Release: A Quick Bite by Patricia Lynne

My friend Patricia Lynne has a new book out today, so I'm celebrating her release here on the blog.  It's a delicious collection of bite-sized stories about all your favourite horror creatures.  Each story is only 200 words long, so it's the perfect book for dipping into while waiting in queues - something I have done more of recently than I ever remember doing before.  All at a safe 2m distance, of course!


These monsters tickle our imagination.

Sink your teeth into a collection of tales about paranormal creatures that go bump in the night. Each story is told in exactly 200 words and designed to give you a quick bite no matter how busy your day is.

Are you hungry?


Waiting Game

It was a well-known fact that vampires only came out at night. They prowled the shadows, snatching any fool dumb enough to venture out after the sun had set.

Parents taught their children about the danger. Which prompted teenagers to dare each other to face the darkness. Most of the youths chickened out once they were standing at the open door with inky blackness stretched out before them. Those who didn’t were found dead and drained the next morning.

Only through vigilance did the village survive. Don’t go out after dark was beaten into the residents’ heads. Sometimes literally.

They hoped that by denying the vampires victims, the undead would be leave in search of easier prey. The villagers didn’t think about others who would suffer when that happened. It was a matter of survival, and those people would have to learn if they wanted to live. At least, that’s what they told themselves to ease their guilt.

But the vampires weren’t going anywhere. Immortality granted an abundance of patience. They just had to wait long enough, and the villagers would become compliant. They would forget why they feared the night. They would come out. And then...the feast would begin.

Zombies are real!

We all love a good zombie apocalypse movie where the good guys fight off hoards of zombies and save humanity. But are zombies really that far-fetched? Maybe not if you look deeper into mother nature.

Have you ever heard of Ophiocordyceps? It is a fungi. Harmless right? Not if you’re an ant. When an ant come across these fungal spores in nature, the fungus infects the insect and spread through its body. Fungal cells in the ant’s head releases chemicals that hijack the insect’s central nervous system. The fungus can then force the ant to climb high. There, it kills the ant and a stalk grows out of the back of the ant’s head so spores can be released to infect more ants on the grounds below.

Sometimes, nature is more scary than fiction.

Buy Links

About the Author
Patricia Josephine is a writer of Urban Fantasy and Sci-Fi Romance books. She actually never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she was more interested in art and band in high school and college. Her dreams were of becoming an artist like Picasso. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head for fun. That was the start of her writing journey, and she hasn't regretted a moment. When she's not writing, she's watching Doctor Who or reading about serial killers. She's an avid knitter. One can never have too much yarn. She writes Young Adult Paranormal, Science Fiction, and Fantasy under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dyeing her hair the colors of the rainbow. 

Social Media Links: 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Weekly Goals 11-5-20

I actually did a bit of writing over the weekend.  Quite a bit.  I'm well on my way to fixing an issue in the middle of one of my books.  Or at least, hopefully fixing the issue.

So this week's goal is to keep up that momentum and try and finish this section of the story.  I know what is going to happen.  I just need to write it.

Today we find out if the country moves down another Alert Level which will mean things begin to resemble normality.  It won't be normal, but at least it will be closer than it is now.   We'll be able to go back to the office a few days a week and restaurants will re-open, but with limited capacity.  Hairdressers will re-open too and I bet they will be doing a roaring trade the first few weeks.

It's my birthday on Friday, but I kind of feel like it's still going to be a lockdown birthday....

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 8-5-20

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 just looked at my calendar and realized it's been seven weeks since I last went into the office.  Seven weeks since I left my suburb.  Seven weeks since I spoke face to face with another person not in my family.

That's crazy!

I can't quite believe it.  And more to the point, I can't believe I haven't gone nuts.  I'm a social person. I like people.  Even people I don't know.  I enjoy sitting places and watching them, making up stories about them or just clocking their quirks.

Is it any wonder I've been struggling to write?  I haven't seen anyone other than the people I see when I go out to exercise, and even them, we largely avoid each other, walking out into the street to allow the requisite two meters of social distancing.

This week I had my first take-out - Indian from the little hole in the wall curry shop at the end of our street.  It was delicious.  Partly because it's the best Indian food in town, but also because I didn't have to cook it.  We'll do some take aways again next week because it's my birthday.  Will have to think long and hard about what I want to make sure I'm not disappointed.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

IWSG - May 2020

It's the first Wednesday in May so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

This month's question is:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

I don't really have any rituals.  I'm someone who writes whenever I have time to write, so I don't feel like I have the time to indulge in any rituals.   I just grab that moment of free time and get to it.

That said, there are a few things I do to make sure that when I sit down to write, I can actually get going without warming into it too much.  For instance, I never leave a project at the end of a chapter or section.  I always write at least a few sentences or paragraphs of the next so when I get back to the MS, I'm not facing a blank page and have a few lines to lead me back into the story.

When I'm drafting, I don't like to stop and do research so if I hit a point where I might need some information I don't have at hand, I'll leave myself a note in the text and highlight it in yellow so I can find it later and fill in the details.  My early drafts are littered with things that say FIND OUT WHAT THE KOREAN WORD FOR GRANDMOTHER IS  or LOOK UP THE LITERACY RATE IN AUSTRALIA IN 1886.

Another thing I do to make sure any writing time I have is constructive, is not to keep going if I'm stuck. If I can't figure out what happens next in a section, I'll just stop writing, open up a new scene in Scrivener and move on to a point in the story where I do know what happens. Usually writing something further down the book's timeline helps me figure out what to do in that earlier scene. And if it doesn't, it often tells me I was moving in the wrong direction with that earlier scene and may need to re-write some or all of it so it does help move the story along.

So, I don't think I've really answered the question, but hopefully some of these tips for making sure any writing time you snatch is productive are useful for you.

What rituals do you observe to help get in the zone?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Weekly Goals 4-5-20

Can you believe it's May already?  It's my birthday in two weeks!  Fingers crossed we're out of lockdown by then...

I didn't do much writing over the weekend.  I just couldn't face being in the same space I spend all week working, so I did other things.  I cooked.  I read. I watched movies. I went for a couple of long walks (which is good because it's pouring rain right now, so I doubt I'll be going walking today).

But now, of course, I'm feeling guilty because I had all those hours I could have been writing and I didn't really use them.

This week's goal is to do some writing.  Even if it isn't a lot.  I have a project I'm revising and I need to finish that before I'm letting myself dive into making the changes to Standing Too Close I know I need to make.  And that I really want to make.

So this week's goal is to try and finish that revision.  I've done the heavy work.  I just need to add a bit here and there, and change a POV in one section to balance the narrators.  Nothing that will take too long.

What are your goals this week?