Sunday, June 28, 2020

Weekly Goals 29-6-20

I didn't get much writing done over the weekend this week, so my goal this week is to write a lot.  I have two days off work at the end of the week, and I plan to use at least one of those days to write.  And if that first day is successful and enjoyable, I may even use both.

That should be enough time to finish Standing Too Close.  I'm so close to being finished.  All I need to do is little tweaks here and there, and change a few details in a couple of scenes.  I just need to time and focus to do them, which it looks like I'll have.

Other than that, my only other goal is to get back into going to the gym at lunchtime a few days a week.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 26-6-20

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?

You know that big project I was working on in the day job?  The virtual booth for the Cannes Marche?  It won the jury prize for the best booth.  That was a piece of good news to wake up to!

Then of course, to balance out the universe, I got a rejection letter from a publisher for a book I submitted...

I have two days off work next week and I plan to use at least one of them to write.  I figure one full, focused day of writing will be enough to finish off the section of Standing Too Close I'm working on, and move into the next part that needs work.  The other day I might use to relax and read and go to the movies and stuff.  Or I might write more.  I haven't decided yet.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Books I've Read: The Geography of Lost Things

Ali has just finished high school.  Her mother is away setting up an apartment she's found for them to move into after the house they've been living in is being taken by the bank.  Things have been tough for most of Ali's life, with her father largely absent, but his bills always showing up.

So she doesn't exactly mourn when she hears he's died.  And when someone shows up with her father's car - his pride an joy - she doesn't even consider keeping it.  Who needs that reminder hanging around?

She finds a buyer online who offers enough that she might just be able to save the house.  The catch? He's hundreds of miles away and Ali doesn't know how to drive a manual car.  In comes Nico, her ex-boyfriend, who not only can drive stick, but insists on doing it.

Ali and Nico's relationship was brief (88 days) but intense.  It ended with a single act of betrayal on Nico's part.  At least, that's how it looks from Ali's point of view.  And after being betrayed over and over again by her father, she knows when to walk away.  So she did.

But as they travel up the coast, the feelings she thought she'd banished keep rearing their ugly little heads.  Nico is still sweet and charming and quirky and fun.  She still enjoys talking to him and teasing him and being teased.

When the car sale falls through, Nico convinces her to keep going, constantly trading up useless objects for ones of more value as they struggle to find the cash to save Ali's home.

This is one of those books I enjoyed, but not as much as I should have because the main character was kind of a bitch.  Sure, she had a reason to be prickly and distrusting of people, but the way she treated Nico just wasn't okay.

Plus, Nico's secret was pretty obvious to me from early on - not the exact detail, but the general gist - so that moment of great reveal toward the end was not really a huge surprise to me.  And frankly, it shouldn't have been such a big surprise to Ali either.  If she wasn't so self absorbed, she might have picked up that something was going on there.

I really loved the trading up idea though.  I'm sure it's a fictional device designed for this book, but it sounds like a lot of fun.  Start with an elastic band, end with something worth way more...

So I would recommend this book.  Just be aware the main character is difficult to like.  But it almost doesn't matter because the people surrounding her are so much fun to spend time with.

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

In this romantic road trip story perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen and Morgan Matson, a teen girl discovers the value of ordinary objects while learning to forgive her absent father.

After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?

Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.

He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.

And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Weekly Goals 22-6-20

It's probably a vain hope, but I'm really hoping this week is somewhat quieter at work.  I was so exhausted over the weekend, I couldn't bring myself to sit down and write, so once again, I've made no progress on Standing Too Close.

So once again, this is going to be my goal for this week: to sit down and do some work on this book.  It's so close to being done!

If it does end up being insane at work again, I am planning to take a couple of days off the following week, so one or both of those could be writing days, or writing half-days.

What are your goals this week?  Are you any better at actually meeting them than I am?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 19-6-20

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!

And boy do I need it!  Over the last two weeks I've been working with a design company to build a website for the Cannes online film market.  If you know anything about website building, you'll know two weeks is not a long time to do it, especially when you want it to be beautiful, informative and functional.

But the Marche starts on Monday, and the site is built and seems to be working across all devices.  I have some more testing to do over the weekend, and a couple of small content tweaks to make once I get access to the code, but basically, it's done.

Hoping to get a few days off before I start on my next big project, but that's not going to be next week because I have too much other work to catch up on after spending pretty much 100% of my time on the site the last two weeks.

So this weekend I'm going to try and take it easy.  It's my son's 13th birthday tomorrow, and all the extended family are coming for dinner, so I have to cook for a crowd.  And clean the house.  And do laundry and all those other chores. I may get some writing in there at some point, but I'm not counting on it.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Books I've Read: Save the Date

Every time I walked past this book on the shelf at the library, I was convinced I'd already read it.  The cover and the title looked so familiar!  Then the last time I went, the shelves looked really picked over, so I took this one out and actually read the blurb.  And guess what?  I hadn't already read it after all.  So guess what I read over the weekend?

This is a fun, quick read - I read the whole thing on Sunday afternoon.

Charlie is the youngest of five kids and the only one still living at home.  She's excited that this weekend all her siblings (except maybe Jamie who hasn't been home for 18 months) will be under one roof.  For the last time.  The house has been sold and her sister's wedding, for which they are all gathering, is the last thing they'll all do there.

One by one the family assemble, each arrival adding to the chaos the wedding is already wrecking.  The wedding planner disappears, possibly with a large amount of embezzled cash.  An unexpected dog is dropped off for a photo shoot the day after the wedding and won't stop howling.  The burglar alarm seems to have a mind of its own and keeps shrieking.  Charlie's favorite older brother brings home a girlfriend no one was expecting.

And this is just the beginning of the problems this family face as they prepare for the happiest day of Linnie's life.

The number of layers of chaos the author piled onto this wedding was almost unbelievable.  Each time you felt like everything was as bad as it could get, something else would go awry.  The marriage celebrant discovers he's not licensed to marry people in that state, the groom's suit was mistakenly given to someone else.  The band will only play Journey covers.  And even once the happy couple have walked down the aisle, the trouble doesn't stop.  There's a lot of places things can go wrong at the reception too...

Despite being a little implausible that so many things could go wrong, this was a fun read.  Each of the family members had distinct personalities and you could see how they'd all become who they were through living in this place together.  The affection between the siblings was clear and even when they fought, you knew they'd still be okay afterward.

Over the three days the book covers, Charlie makes a lot of discoveries about herself, her family and the world around her.  I enjoyed spending those three days with her, and knew at the end she'd be okay, even though her perception of her world and the people in it had shifted a little.

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

Charlie Grant's older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can't wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect.

The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster. There's the unexpected dog with a penchant for howling, house alarm that won't stop going off, and a papergirl with a grudge.

There are the relatives who aren't speaking, the (awful) girl her favorite brother brought home unannounced, and a missing tuxedo. Not to mention the neighbor who seems to be bent on sabotage and a storm that is bent on drenching everything. The justice of the peace is missing. The band will only play covers. The guests are all crazy. And the wedding planner's nephew is unexpectedly, distractedly cute.

Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she'll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Weekly Goals 15-6-20

Monday seems to have rolled around far too quickly this week!

I finished something I was working on and sent it off a day or two ahead of the deadline.  I thought about holding onto it for another day and doing a few more tweaks, but decided it was better to send it off before I ruined it by over-tweaking.

So now I can get back to my own book again.

This week's goal is to try and finish the re-write I've been doing on this one section so I can move on to the next place I need to add/change some stuff.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, June 12, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 11-6-20

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!

Another crazy, busy week at work this week, so I'm grateful for a couple of days off.  Even if I do have some serious writing work to try and get through in the next two days.  And the usual housework, laundry and cooking.

At least it's something different from work.

That said,  I've made some significant progress on the huge project I'm working on and as long as the other people I'm working with do their bits, we should be able to get finished on schedule.

I'm celebrating this week that in my writing life, while I rely on other people for feedback and notes and things, for the most part, I'm never really held up by other people not doing their part.  And I usually have more than one thing on the go, so if I'm waiting for notes on one project, I always have something else I can be getting on with.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Books I've Read: Slay

First up, I'm not a gamer so the world this book is set in is a little alien to me.  That said, the author managed to vividly describe the world inside the game so I never felt like I didn't understand it.  It actually felt a lot like a game you'd play offline, around a table with a bunch of friends.  One of my sons plays Magic, and this felt a lot like an online version of something like that (at least from my limited understanding of Magic).

But as well as being about gaming, this book explores ideas about racism and exclusion and what those things really mean.  It's a book about being Black and what that means for different people.

Kiera is a super-smart kid who not only is at the top of her class at the exclusive private school the attends, but also finds time to be a tutor to fellow students, and build and maintain this epic online world she's created.  She has help with that, of course, but overall, it's her baby and she spends a lot of time on it.

Secret time.  Even her parents and sister don't know she's behind SLAY.  So when someone in the real world is murdered as a result of a fight over SLAY currency, Kiera has no one to turn to for help.  As the media discovers the game and that it's available only to Black gamers, Kiera faces some of the most vicious hate-speech she's ever faced.

Things get worse when a troll infiltrates the game and threatens to sue her and take over the game.

This is a world Kiera has built.  A world where she is not different from everyone else. A world in which she can be herself.  So that world is worth protecting.

Whatever the cost.

I really enjoyed this book because it offered a perspective into two worlds I'm not usually privy to: gaming and Black life.  Kiera is an engaging protagonist, whip smart in many ways, but also a little naive.  Perfect for someone of her age and experience.

Definitely one I'd recommend.

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

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the "downfall of the Black man."

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for "anti-white discrimination."

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Weekly Goals 8-6-20

I had another good weekend when it comes to writing, and made substantial progress on my tight-deadline project.  I need to try and cut down a little of what I wrote because I feel like I'm not hitting all the beats in quite the right places, but it's a good start. Especially considering I thought it might take me two weekends to get through the number of pages required, and I did it in one.

Unfortunately, working on that means I didn't work at all on Standing Too Close, just when I was on a roll with it.  But given how long that project has been hanging around, waiting for me to finish revising it, I guess it can wait another week or so.

The exciting news for this week is that New Zealand is now COVID-19-free! The last active case has recovered, and there has been no new cases for several weeks.  This means that as of midnight tonight, we move into Level 1 of our alert system which takes us back to life as usual, apart from the borders being closed.

So no overseas travel in the near future (I haven't been overseas since 2013 anyway), and no visits from friends and family abroad.  Which means my sister and her family probably won't be able to visit at Christmas, which is a shame, but not life-threatening.

I guess the gym will be opening back up...  Guess I'd better get back to that now.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Celebrate the Small Things 5-6-20

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!

Even though it has been a short week, it's felt quite long and I'm looking forward to having a couple of days off.  Especially since I've been given a big project at work with a very tight deadline.  It's going to be a very busy couple of weeks, I think...

Especially since I also have a pretty tight writing deadline for something I've been asked to do as well.  I was planning to take a day off next week to work on it, but with this work project being so large and intense, I'm not sure that's going to be possible.  I will have to see how much I can get done over the weekend and make a judgement call from there.

Funny how everything seems to happen at once.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

IWSG - June 2020

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

This month's question is: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it?  But okay...  A couple of things you might not guess from my work... Hmmm.

I have a sister, but we barely ever speak to one another.  We're certainly not close like the siblings tend to be in my books.  That's partly because we live on opposite sides of the world, but with modern technology, that isn't really the barrier it used to be.  We basically just have very little in common other than our parents and have few shared experiences to draw on because we stopped living in the same house when she was thirteen and I was fifteen.

I live in New Zealand.  My books are generally not set in New Zealand or Australia or France or America or the UK or anywhere instantly recognizable.  My characters all live in or around a city called Milton which is as big or small as I need it to be for each book, and has whatever geographical features each book needs.  For example, the book I'm working on now, needs a lake a couple of hours away, so there is a lake, while another book I've written needed mountains on the outskirts, so there are mountains.

The nice thing about having created this city is that characters from one book can pop up again in another.  Sacha from The Sidewalk Regrets makes a cameo in the first scene of the book I'm working on now, and her boyfriend, Dylan, is referred to in My Murder Year.  I'm just waiting for the right time for Ozzy from Stumped to show up again somewhere...

What's something people wouldn't know about you, from your work?