Friday, December 31, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 31-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the end of 2021.

I'm not sure I'm really celebrating that because I don't actually believe 2022 is going to be a whole lot better.  I wish I were more optimistic, but all evidence points to the contrary.  So while I'm quite glad to put 2021 behind me, I'm not feeling particularly excited about 2022.

Hopefully that will change.  I'd love the world to prove me wrong.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Books I've Read: My Life as a Rat


I have always meant to read more Joyce Carol Oates because the few times I've picked up one of her books, I've enjoyed them.  But somehow I have never really sought her out.  I think that might change after reading this fascinating and challenging book.

It's about a young girl called Violet Rue Kerrigan.  She's the youngest of seven kids in an Irish Catholic family living close to the poverty line in a small town near the Canadian border.  Much adored by her father and doted on by her mother, she's happy enough, even if life isn't always easy.  

Everything changes when two of her older brothers come home late one night and wake her.  She eavesdrops on their panicked conversation and sees something that changes the story they will later tell everyone else about what happened to the Black boy who was killed on the road that night.

When, sick and terrified, Violet blurts out the truth about what she saw and heard, she is firmly and permanently ejected from the family, branded a 'rat'.  At just twelve years old, she is set adrift and forced to figure out who she is without the family she has never considered life without.

I really liked this book.  It had some deep, moral questions at its core yet never felt like it was preaching one way or the other.  Violet is a wonderful character in that she is very flawed and her choices don't always make sense.  Yet at the same time, in the context of the life she's ben forced into, they make perfect sense.

Her longing to reconnect with the family who cast her out creates tension throughout even as she tries to forge a life for herself away from them.  It speaks volumes to how important those roots can be.

I definitely recommend this one.  It's not always an easy read because Violet's life is anything but easy and some of her experiences are horrific.  But she is resilient enough that each time you think this is the thing that will break her, she comes back for another round.

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

Which should prevail: loyalty to family or loyalty to the truth? Is telling the truth ever a mistake and is lying for one’s family ever justified? Can one do the right thing, but bitterly regret it?

My Life as a Rat follows Violet Rue Kerrigan, a young woman who looks back upon her life in exile from her family following her testimony, at age twelve, concerning what she knew to be the racist murder of an African-American boy by her older brothers. In a succession of vividly recalled episodes Violet contemplates the circumstances of her life as the initially beloved youngest child of seven Kerrigan children who inadvertently “informs” on her brothers, setting into motion their arrests and convictions and her own long estrangement.

Arresting and poignant, My Life as a Rat traces a life of banishment from a family—banishment from parents, siblings, and the Church—that forces Violet to discover her own identity, to break the powerful spell of family, and to emerge from her long exile as a “rat” into a transformed life.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Weekly Goals 27-12-21

 Now that Christmas is over, it's time to get some real work done before I head to the beach house.  The weather was good yesterday, so I started the deck - did the front and the steps in the back - so now I need to finish it.  The forecast isn't great for tomorrow, so I'm going to try and finish both coats this morning so it has time to dry properly before the rain hits.  

After the deck has been done, I need to do a serious clean of the inside of the house too.  Things like the pantry and the fridge need to be cleaned out properly and I feel like moving furniture to vacuum those hard-to-reach places might be a good idea too.  And there's weeding to be done in the garden too, but I might outsource that to number two son who is trying to earn money for a new camera.

Number one son is leaving for the beach this morning wth his friend and my partner has a small tour over New Year, so it's just going to be the two of us for the rest of the week.  I'm pretty sure we can keep busy.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 24-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the holidays!

I finished work yesterday and am off until 17 January which feels like a really, really long time away.  After not having any holidays all year, apart from the odd 4-day weekend here and there, I need this break.  And I think I've managed just the right balance between time at home to get the house in order for the new year and time away at the beach.  Not to mention time to catch all the fantastic movies that are already on or coming out in the next couple of weeks!  I'm looking forward to seeing The French Dispatch today since I'm not working and have managed to get all my Christmas shopping out of the way.  Then next week I'm planning to see both West Side Story and The House of Gucci.  And there may be time for another one or two too, depending on the weather.

I'm finally going to get the deck stained too.  The weather looks like it's going to be best Sunday and Monday, so that's my priority.  After that, my days will be spent reading, painting (weather dependent) and cleaning up the house until we head to the South Island after New Year.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas (if you celebrate it) and enjoy time with family and friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Books I've Read: Not Here to Be Liked


Knowing I might not feel much like doing anything else after surgery, I stocked up on books at the library and this was one of the four I read over the last four or five days.

It's about a super over-achieving girl called Liza.  She's from a Chinese family, but unlike most books with Chinese parents, Liza's aren't over-the-top, super strict tiger parents.  They're involved, often to the point of being interfering, but there is room for Liza to be herself in her family as well.

For her entire high school career, all Liza has wanted is to be Editor in Chief of the school paper.  It looks like a shoo in as there are no other candidates for the role.  But at the last minute, newcomer to the paper's staff, ex-baseball player Len, decides to run and wins.

Outraged, Liza writes a poisonous article about the vote and how Len won the position based, not on his experience or skill, but on the fact he's male, good looking and popular.  She doesn't mean for it to be published, but it becomes front page news and ignites a feminist movement which threatens to tear the school apart.

To promote unity, Liza and Len are asked to work together for the remainder of the school year, forcing them into close proximity.  Liza expects to hate this, so is surprised that, once she gets to know Len, she actually likes him quite a bit.  In fact, she might even be falling for him.  But how can the leader of a feminist movement fall for the symbol of the patriarchy?

This was a quick, fun read that really played with the idea of what feminism is, isn't and can be.  Liza wasn't always the most likable character - I find these super-driven girls hard to deal with sometimes. They're so single-minded and unwavering about what they are and what they want.  Maybe I've just forgotten how black and white everything seems when you're young and idealistic, how every opportunity feels like the only chance you'll ever get to shine.  I always want to sit these girls down and tell them that even if that one thing doesn't happen, another opportunity will arise.  Maybe an even better one.

But I digress...

I enjoyed seeing how Liza's vendetta against Len played out and liked that even though he seemed laid back and casual about everything, he actually wanted things as much as she did. I enjoyed their sparring.

So if you're looking for something fun to read, with a little bit of bite to it, this is a good choice.

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

Emergency Contact meets Moxie in this cheeky and searing novel that unpacks just how complicated new love can get…when you fall for your enemy.

Eliza Quan is the perfect candidate for editor in chief of her school paper. That is, until ex-jock Len DiMartile decides on a whim to run against her. Suddenly her vast qualifications mean squat because inexperienced Len—who is tall, handsome, and male—just seems more like a leader.

When Eliza’s frustration spills out in a viral essay, she finds herself inspiring a feminist movement she never meant to start, caught between those who believe she’s a gender equality champion and others who think she’s simply crying misogyny.

Amid this growing tension, the school asks Eliza and Len to work side by side to demonstrate civility. But as they get to know one another, Eliza feels increasingly trapped by a horrifying realization—she just might be falling for the face of the patriarchy himself.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Weekly Goals 20-12-21

 I just realized I missed my Celebrate the Small Things post on Friday!  I guess I have a good excuse in that I had surgery and had to be at the hospital at 7:15 in the morning.  And it wasn't the hospital close to where I live either.

It seems to have gone well.  It took very little time and I was home by early afternoon.  I've been quite tired from the anesthetic, but haven't had much pain.  Which is good.  I have a couple of days off work to recover.  On Saturday I wasn't sure I was going to need them, but now I'm thinking I probably do.

So goals for this week...  Mostly getting ready for Christmas.  I haven't done much yet, so I need to get onto that.  Get wrapping paper and a few gifts I still haven't managed to get yet.  I think that will be a job for tomorrow.

What are your goals this week?

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


This is another one of those books that was a fun read, not groundbreaking at all, but a good way to spend an afternoon.  Obviously I was attracted to it because it's about the movies, but there is actually more to it than that.

Liz's mother died when she was still a little kid, but she keeps her memory alive through watching and re-watching the romantic comedies she and her mother once shared.  Her entire view of romance is coloured by these films, so when the boy she loved as a kid returns for senior year, she's determined he will be her prom date.

But said childhood crush, Michael, picks up his friendship with Liz's neighbor and arch-nemesis, Wes, almost as soon as he hits town.  If Liz wants to get close to Michael, she's going to have to make friends with Wes too.

Using all the tools in her romantic comedy toolbox, Liz fumbles her way toward a relationship with Michael.  But why does she have so much fun with Wes on the way?  As the pair spend more and more time together, Liz begins to realize her Mr. Right might not be the guy she's always regarded as her Happy Ever After.

As I said, there's nothing particularly new or different about this book.  It follows romantic comedy tropes to a T.  Liz is delightfully quirky without being unlikable, and Wes is the perfect foil for her.  The only thing I didn't love was the way Liz treated her best friend throughout the story. I truly felt for the poor girl as Liz ditched her time and time again and repeatedly lied about what she was doing.  No guy is worth ditching your besties for!

But overall, I enjoyed this.  Not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon at all.

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

Liz Buxbaum has always known that Wes Bennett was not boyfriend material. You would think that her next-door neighbor would be a prince candidate for her romantic comedy fantasies, but Wes has only proven himself to be a pain in the butt, ever since they were little. Wes was the kid who put a frog in her Barbie Dreamhouse, the monster who hid a lawn gnome's severed head in her little homemade neighborhood book exchange.

Flash forward ten years from the Great Gnome Decapitation. It's Liz's senior year, a time meant to be rife with milestones perfect for any big screen, and she needs Wes's help. See, Liz's forever crush, Michael, has just moved back to town, and—horribly, annoyingly—he's hitting it off with Wes. Meaning that if Liz wants Michael to finally notice her, and hopefully be her prom date, she needs Wes. He's her in.

But as Liz and Wes scheme to get Liz her magical prom moment, she's shocked to discover that she actually likes being around Wes. And as they continue to grow closer, she must reexamine everything she thought she knew about love—and rethink her own perception of what Happily Ever After should really look like.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Weekly Goals 13-12-21

 I have four days this week before my surgery to get everything done at work that needs to be done for the year, plus get all my Christmas shopping done.  I may have a couple of days of work next week to tie up loose ends, but that really depends on how I'm feeling.  

Plus we have our staff Christmas party on Wednesday which takes out a few working hours.


Forecast is for rain all week so I'm resigned now to not getting the deck done until after Christmas now.  I have a week or so here before we go to the beach, so I will do it in that time.  Hopefully it won't get too hot.  I was trying to get it done earlier in the summer because I've heard it isn't a good idea to do it when it's hot.  

And that's about it for goals.  What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 10-12-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm not sure I am celebrating.  The end of the year seems to be racing toward me at great speed and I'm not prepared at all. I have done virtually no Christmas shopping at all.  I will have to get on that next week because my surgery has been moved to the 17th and I'm not sure how I'll feel afterward.  I may not have any more days to get ready for Christmas.  Eeeekk!

It hasn't helped that I got a cold this week.  I took the day off (sort of - I worked at home for most of it) yesterday, and I feel a lot better today.  Fingers crossed I'll be fine tomorrow because I have a friend coming down from the coast for our annual pre-Xmas lunch.

And that's about it for this week.  Once again the weekend weather is against me staining my deck.  I'm beginning to think I'm cursed or something! 

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Books I've Read: What I Like About You


This is a quick, fun read that I tore through in a weekend.  It has some Jewish representation in it too, something that I don't often see in YA books I read.

When Halle moves in with her grandfather for a year to concentrate on her online life and college applications while her parents head to Israel to make (another) documentary, she can't believe the house is the same one her grandmother once lived in.  All traces of her beloved Gran are gone.  What's more, her grandfather is a shell of the man he once was.

All the more reason to escape into the online world she's built over the years, the one where she isn't socially awkward, book-nerd Halle but smart, savvy and popular book blogger, Kels.  Online Halle has a group of friends including her bestie, Nash, a talented cartoonist with whom she shares a burning desire to get into NYU.

So when Halle runs into Nash at the library in her new hometown, she's flummoxed.  Her online life and her real life aren't supposed to meet.  Not yet, anyway. Maybe in college...  But in this small town, being the new kid makes you conspicuous and Halle is quickly absorbed into Nash's friend group.  And the more time she spends with them, the harder it is to admit that she, super-awkward and shy, is actually Kels.

As her online life becomes more and more successful, it becomes harder and harder for her to keep her secret.  Especially once she and Nash get close in real life.  The only problem is that Nash is secretly in love with Kels...  But how can Halle tell him the truth now?

I loved that this was essentially a love triangle, but the third person was just another side of Halle.  I also really liked the behind-the-scenes look at the book blogging scene.  I know I blog about books, but publicists are not exactly beating down my door to send me ARCs or asking me to do cover reveals for hot new titles.

I also liked that Halle's family were Jewish, but didn't really practice, while her grandfather and new friends did.  Practicing Jews aren't something I see a lot of in YA books, so this was refreshing.  I've actually read more about Muslim and Hindi families than about Jewish ones, to be honest.  Interesting...

I'd recommend this one if you're looking for a light, breezy romance.  It doesn't do anything particularly out of the ordinary, but it is enjoyable.  You may want to make yourself a batch of cupcakes before you start because the descriptions of Halle's cakes made my stomach growl!

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

Can a love triangle have only two people in it? Online, it can... but in the real world, it's more complicated. In this debut novel Marisa Kanter explores what happens when internet friends turn into IRL crushes.

There are a million things that Halle Levitt likes about her online best friend, Nash.

He’s an incredibly talented graphic novelist. He loves books almost as much as she does. And she never has to deal with the awkwardness of seeing him in real life. They can talk about anything…

Except who she really is.

Because online, Halle isn’t Halle—she’s Kels, the enigmatically cool creator of One True Pastry, a YA book blog that pairs epic custom cupcakes with covers and reviews. Kels has everything Halle doesn’t: friends, a growing platform, tons of confidence, and Nash.

That is, until Halle arrives to spend senior year in Gramps’s small town and finds herself face-to-face with real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash. Nash, who is somehow everywhere she goes—in her classes, at the bakery, even at synagogue.

Nash who has no idea she’s actually Kels.

If Halle tells him who she is, it will ruin the non-awkward magic of their digital friendship. Not telling him though, means it can never be anything more. Because while she starts to fall for Nash as Halle…he’s in love with Kels.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Weekly Goals 6-12-21

Because I was expecting to be off work this week following the surgery, I don't have a lot of plans for this week.  I'm sure there will be work to do, but I was pretty organized about getting stuff done ahead of time.  I guess that means I might have a quiet week at work...

I got all my water blasting done over the weekend, so the goal for this week is to get the deck stained.  It's absolutely hosing down with rain right now and there's a heavy rain warning for most of the day, so I suspect it will be a few days before everything has dried out enough to do it.  Fingers crossed it's fine (ish) over the weekend so I can get it done.  The good thing about the rain is that it will wash off the house and everything else that got splattered with water blasting scum.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, December 3, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 3-12-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?


A friend lent me a water blaster to de-scum the deck before I stain it, so that's what my weekend has in store.  I did some after work yesterday and it's surprisingly fun.  Not to mention effective.  Unfortunately the forecast is for rain all weekend, so I don't imagine I'm going to get the staining done until next weekend at the earliest.  What is it with bad weather all weekend?  I feel like it's been weeks since it was fine over the weekend.  I have a pile of new canvasses and paints I want to play with too, and the weather is not cooperating.

My surgery has been postponed so I won't be going under the knife on Monday.  Not sure when it will be now.  Probably into next year, which is something of a pain.  I was hoping to get it over with this side of Christmas.  But them's the breaks, right?

What are you celebrating this week?



Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Insecure Writer's Support group


It's the beginning of December so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

The awesome co-hosts for the December 1 posting of the IWSG arePJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

And this month's question is a doozy!

 In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

I think answering what delights me is easier than what stresses me, so I'm going to answer that one first.  I am delighted when I sit down to write and the words are just there and writing is easy.  There's nothing more satisfying than one of those days when the words just seem to be waiting to flow onto the page in the right order, with the right emotions and the story seems to almost be telling itself.

Another delight is going back to something I wrote some time ago and discovering it's actually good.  So often I've built these things up in my mind as something terrible that's going to need a ton of work to get right, so it's a delight to discover that, while not perfect, there are things to absolutely love about that piece.

I am also always delighted to hear from readers who truly get my work and love the stories and the characters as much as I do.  It makes the more difficult times so worthwhile and I cling to those moments whenever things get tough.

Writing stresses come in many forms.  Deadlines can be stressful, especially when they're tight and come at a time that's already busy with work and life.  But I've learned that most deadlines aren't as hard as you might and rather than get stressed about it, it's better to reach out to whoever the deadline is with early and let them know you might struggle to meet it.  Most of the time, deadlines can be moved, but you have to ask.

Getting stuck somewhere in a story can also be stressful.  That moment where you know something needs to happen, but you can't figure out what that thing is, what happens next.  I find that getting past this can involve something as simple as just leaving a not in the MS that there's something missing, and then moving on to another place in the story where I do know what needs to happen.  Often through writing beyond the sticky spot, I find exactly what needs to happen there. Sometimes though, I need to leave that project behind for a while, work on something else, maybe even something not writing-related, and that will help me un-stick myself.

Stress can also come from royalty reports - somehow I've never sold as many books as I'd like to have sold.

I'm sure that's just a handful of the things that stress and delight me about writing. It's something that gives me great joy and also makes me very miserable. One day I'll figure out how to make the joys the larger part of the process, but I'm not there yet.

What are the things about writing that delight or stress you out?

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Weekly Goals 29-11-21

 It's Monday again, so here goes with my weekly goals.

It's going to be a busy week at work because I'm having a little surgery next Monday which means I'll need a few days off to recover.  So I need to cram a lot of work into this week to make sure things won't fall apart while I'm away next week.  Plus we have an all-day workshop on Friday which means I actually only have a four-day week in the office to get all that stuff done.

I have my fingers crossed that the weather will be okay next weekend so I can get the deck stained and do some more artwork.  I have a pile of canvasses arriving this week that I ordered online, and a bunch of new paint colors I'm itching to try out.  Not to mention some new techniques I'd like to try too.

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

What are your goals for the week?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 26-11-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's Friday!

And it has been a very busy week at work so I am looking forward to the weekend.  The weather doesn't look like it's going to be fantastic, unfortunately, so once again I'm probably not going to be able to paint or stain the deck.  Beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to get that deck stained...

I managed to get a few quite big pieces of work off my plate this week which is good because the end of the year is looming and these things need to be done before we hit the Christmas break.  I think I have four more time-sensitive things I need to achieve before the end of the year, and a couple of things I really want to complete, but it's not the end of the world if I don't get through them.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Books I've Read: The Wonder Test


I read this over the weekend, in between films and household chores and really enjoyed it.

It's set in a small California town near San Francisco where everyone seems to be extraordinarily affluent.  Lina and her son Rory move there from New York following the death of Lina's husband and father.  Ostensibly there to clean out her father's house, Lina is actually trying to escape both her grief and her guilt over a mistake she made in her work as an FBI agent.

Everything seems idyllic at first.  The house is gorgeous, the neighbourhood quiet and safe and Rory's new school top-notch.  Although Lina does think it's odd how involved the community is with the school and fact the students are expected to do one single, all encompassing test - the Wonder Test.  Nothing about this test and the devotion of the community to it seems quite right to Lina and her well-honed investigative skills start prickling.

It's not long before Lina discovers that a student at the school went missing last year, only to be returned mysteriously just after test week.  Further investigation reveals that a similar thing happened the year before.  So when Rory's new girlfriend disappears, Lina recognises the link and dives headfirst into an investigation that will take her on a journey through the values of Silicone Valley's elite, the real estate market and the secret world of pony fetishists.

The details about Lina's work were fascinating and felt authentic although never having been an FBI agent, I don't know for sure.  The things she knew and did felt right though, even if that is because I've watched too many spy movies over the years...

This is a pacey read with enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.  I enjoyed the social commentary about these elite people and the way they live through the achievements of their children, not to mention the relationship between high test scores and increased real estate value.  Sometimes I have to wonder about peoples' priorities!

If you like a good thriller with authentic details and a bit of scathing social commentary, I'd recommend this one.

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

A widowed FBI agent grows suspicious of her son's new school in this thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage Pact.

Lina is on leave from her job in New York at the FBI in order to clean out her father's home in Silicon Valley. As though letting go of her father isn't hard enough, Lina has also recently lost her husband in a freak traffic accident. Still reeling, she and her teenage son Rory must make their way through this strange new town and the high school around which it all seems to revolve. Rory soon starts coming home with reports of the upcoming "Wonder Test," a general aptitude assessment that appears increasingly inane, and Lina is shaken out of her grief by a sense that something is amiss in Hillsborough.

When she discovers that a student disappeared last year and was found weeks later walking on a beach, shaved and traumatized, Lina can't help but be sucked into an impromptu investigation. Another kidnapping hits closer to home and reveals a sinister link between the Wonder Test and the rampant wealth of Silicon Valley's elite. A searing view of a culture that puts the wellbeing of children at risk for advancement and prestige, and a captivating story of the lengths a mother will go for her son, this is The Wonder Test.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Weekly Goals 22-11-21

 The film festival officially finished last night so that excitement is over for another year.  It was a good one, for sure.

I saw a bunch of great stuff over the weekend, starting with Shivababy which has to be one of the most anxiety inducing films I've seen in a long time.  It's a very simple premise - a young woman, just about to finish college, goes to a shiva with her parents.  It's full of old family friends and acquaintances, including her ex-girlfriend who her mother tells her not to talk to, the guy she's been banging for money on the side, his wife and daughter (who she didn't know existed until the moment they arrived) and various older women who want to either set her up with a future husband or someone who can give her a job.   Mainly with the very people she wants to avoid the most!

I also saw a documentary about the friendship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, all told in their own words through interviews and letters and diary entries.  Such talented writers!  And a fascinating and complicated friendship.

I also saw The Eyes of Tammy-Faye which is about tele-evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker.  Stunning performance from Jessica Chastain.  She's barely recognizable at times.  But what a horrible story.  Such greed.

Yesterday was a triple-header starting off with a classic 50's melodrama in the form of Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind.  I've seen it before, but it was just as good as I remembered.  Rock Hudson being manly, Lauren Bacall being gorgeous and acerbic and lots of people with too much money behaving badly.

One Second was a beautiful Chinese film about film.  Set in the '60s it was about a man who escaped a forced about camp after receiving a letter telling him his daughter appears in a newsreel.  The lengths he goes to to see her in said newsreel are extraordinary and bring him into contact with a raft of fascinating characters.  Definitely one of my favorites!

Finally, I saw Titane which won the Palme d'or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  What an audacious film! Part body horror, part commentary on the objectification of women and all twisted.  I can't claim to understand everything going on in there, but you have to give points for consistently making brave filmmaking choices.  I just wish I'd understood any one of the characters' motivations...

And that's it for another year.  Noe I need to focus on getting through to the end of the year at work and preparing for Christmas.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, November 19, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 19-11-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm still celebrating the film festival and enjoying immersing myself in the experience.

This week I've seen a very charming Belgian film called Playground.  It was about a six-year-old girl starting school and discovering the older brother she'd always idolised was not quite the hero she believed he was.  It is very cleverly shot so everything is seen through this child's eyes.  Adults are not seen above mid-chest height unless they are sitting or bent over to speak directly to a child.  Anything that is not relevant to this child is a blur in the background.  It's very clever and immersive and I enjoyed it very much.

The other film I've seen so far this week is called My Salinger Year and it's kind of literary Devil Wears Prada.  A young woman moves to New York to pursue a career as a writer and is hired as an assistant to a literary agent who represents J D Salinger.  The agent isn't nearly as scary or overbearing as the editor in the Devil Wears Prada - she's more stuck in the past and unwilling to move with the times.  She's played by Sigourney Weaver and manages to be both steely and vulnerable at the same time.  I didn't think this was a great film - it meandered a bit and lost focus on the core story often - but it was very charming and had some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments.  The main character was almost exactly the same age as i would have been in its 1995 setting, so I totally identified with her and the journey she was on.  God, she could have been me!

I have six more films to see over the weekend, so will report back on those on Monday.  Very much looking forward to re-seeing one of Douglas Sirk's sumptuous 1950s melodramas on Sunday morning!

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Happy Birthday Scavenger Hunt

My good friend Patricia Lynn has a new book out and it's her birthday!  On top of that, she's celebrating 10 years as a published author.  To celebrate, she's holding a scavenger hunt and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Read about Being Human below and find my unique scavenger hunt code word, then head to for the list of other participants. When you've collected at least five special words, you need to go back to Patricia's blog and comment on the post Happy Birthday AND Anniversary to be entered in the giveaway. 

Good luck! 

Tommy forgot his human life when he became a vampire...but it didn’t forget him.

Like all vampires, Tommy must do one thing: survive. With no memory of his life before death, his only connection to humanity is his twin brother. When Tommy rescues a young girl, he learns not all monsters are undead. After returning her to her family, Tommy struggles to understand why he felt so protective of her when she has no connection to him.

As the years pass, and with his twin’s help, Tommy moves on with his ‘life’ but never forgets the young girl or the monster who hurt her. When she re-enters his life as a teenager, Tommy struggles with his vampire need to survive and his desire to protect her. He will be forced to decide which part of him is stronger: The vampire? Or the human? The answer may destroy him.

Being Human is a coming of age young adult paranormal fantasy about finding one’s humanity, family bonds, and the power of love.

Add to Goodreads

Patricia Josephine aka Patricia Lynne
Author of paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi novels you can escape into.
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◾Twitter: @pjlauthor
◾Facebook: @pjlauthor
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◾Patreon: @pjlauthor

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Weekly Goals 15-11-21

 It's the final week of the film festival so I'm not making any lofty goals.  Between work and trying to make it to all the films I want to see, that's enough.

So what films have I seen over the weekend?

Well, I saw a documentary called The Most Beautiful Boy in the World which is about the young boy in Visconti's Death in Venice.  He was a 15-year-old Swedish kid and being in that film changed his life, but not in a good way.  The documentary is basically about the way his life was ruined by being in the film.  I didn't love it, mainly because I didn't particularly like the subject and found it a little difficult to sympathize with him.

I also saw a delightful Norwegian film called Ninjababy.  It's about an unplanned pregnancy and the woman doesn't discover she's pregnant until almost 7 months.  This obviously sends her into something of a tailspin while she tries to figure out who the father could be and what she is supposed to do with a baby at this point in her life.  She wants to be a cartoonist so the film is partly animated as she works through these challenges.  I loved it.  It was hilarious, but also very real.  The characters spoke like real people speak and the emotions were very raw.

I also saw an Iranian film, A Hero by a director called Asgadar Faradhi.  I've loved all his earlier films, so jumped at a chance to see this one.  It was kind of a shaggy dog story with all kinds of wrong decisions being made.  I enjoyed it, but feel like I may have missed something really essential about it because I'm not Iranian and don't fully understand Iranian culture.  The whole film seemed to be about each character wanting to preserve their dignity or honor, but I never quite understood what that meant or why it was so important.

So that was my weekend.  I think I have another eight to see before it's all over.  Plus I managed to get a ticket to an encore screening of one of the ones I really wanted to see but couldn't fit into the schedule.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 12-11-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

Still celebrating the film festival this week, and next week too.  I haven't been to a lot this week, but both the things I've seen have been good.

I saw Ted K the other night, in an almost empty theatre which was odd.  It's a portrait of the Unabomber that was shot on the land where he actually lived and uses his own words from the many, many pages of writing that was left behind in his cabin.  It was an interesting film that really took you into Ted's world.  Everything was seen through his eyes and his interactions with others were limited to telephone calls in which the other party was never seen or heard, or simple day-to-day transactions.  It was rather unsettling in many ways, even though I think they could have gone deeper and really revealed more about the forces that made this seemingly rational and clearly very intelligent person turn to domestic terrorism.

The other film I saw was a documentary about Poly Styrene, the punk feminist.  It was made by her daughter and in many ways, it was more about the daughter as she struggled to reconcile the public figure with the mother she knew. And it sounds like she was not really capable of being a great mother a lot of the time...

I have a bunch more to see this weekend which I am looking forward to.  I'm also hoping to be able to varnish some paintings, but the weather isn't looking that crash hot.  And the other thing I want to do this weekend is make canneloni for dinner when the whānau come on Sunday.

what are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Books I've Read: As If On Cue

This was a quick, fun read that I raced through in a single afternoon without a single regret.

Natalie and Reid have been rivals since they were kids and both started taking clarinet lessons with Natalie's music teacher father.  What started out being a way for Natalie to connect with her dad, became a fierce competition once Reid came on the scene.  By middle school, the competitiveness moved beyond just their playing and began wrecking havoc with both their lives.

Now, in their final year of high school, Natalie has given up playing the clarinet in favour of writing plays.  She has a new group of theatre friends and only sees Reid when he shows up for his clarinet lessons.  When the school's administration cancels all but one of the school's arts-based extra-curriculars as a means to save money, Natalie is devastated.  Her dreams are crushed, yet Reid's competition-winning band still gets to play.

To try and get to Reid, Natalie re-starts a years'-old prank war, but the pranks go beyond harmless and to atone for their sins, Reid and Natalie are forced to work together, to rewrite Natalie's play as a musical that will utilise the talents of both the theatre crew and the band.  With the two of them as co-directors.

With no idea how to get along with each other, let alone how to work together, it is inevitable that sparks fly.  Yet they are not the sparks either one of them might have expected and suddenly the pair find themselves trying to navigate new feelings for one another at the same time as they navigate the challenges of staging a musical that will sell out and save the arts programmes they both love so much.

As an ex-theatre and music kid myself, I loved the world of this book and the passion both characters had for their respective arts.  They are both driven and creative and the kid of kids you just know will succeed.  I have to say, I found Natalie a little much at times.  She was so single-minded and certain that her own point of view was the right one that she became quite unlikable at times.  And she does something toward the end of the book that is difficult to forgive her for.  

But despite my reservations about Natalie and her (lack of) personal growth and self-awareness, I still enjoyed this book.  It made me want to do theatre again.

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

A pair of fierce foes are forced to work together to save the arts at their school in this swoony YA enemies-to-lovers romance that fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson are sure to adore.

Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.

Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Weekly Goals 8-11-21

 With my film festival schedule pretty full this week, I don't really have much in the way of goals other than to make it to all the films I've booked.

So far, it's been a pretty good festival.

I saw a documentary about The Pogues frontman, Shane McGowan which was excellent, if very sad.  The man is a wreck from drinking and can barely speak anymore.  

I went to the world premiere of local film Millie Lies Low which was great too.  I've read the script a few times for work, and it's always so nice to see a script you enjoyed come to life even better than it looked on the page.  I had such anxiety for poor Millie the whole way through the film!

Yesterday was a double feature with Mass first up.  It's a powerful film, but harrowing.  I cried for about the last third of it.  Stunning acting from all four lead actors.  The tensions was lessened a little by the fact there was an earthquake partway through which took my focus off the screen for a couple of minutes while I tried to figure out if the weird rattling sound was part of the soundtrack or something real.

I closed out the weekend with a classic Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.  I've seen it before, but never on the big screen.  Marvellously melodramatic.  I remembered there being a really long opening scene in a bizarrely decorated bedroom, but I think must have forgotten that in fact the whole film is set in that room.  It's very theatrical, but once again, fabulous acting from all the women involved.

I have a night off tonight, then back into it tomorrow.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 5-11-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

Film festival! 

It's late, it's not happening in Auckland or Hamilton, but it is happening in Wellington where I live, so I'm going to indulge big time.  Especially since last year's event was a bit of a fizzer because most of the films were online instead of in cinemas.

I was lucky enough to score a last-minute ticket to the opening night last night and got to see Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog.  Truly exceptional filmmaking.  I've read the book it's based on a couple of times, and I read the script when it came in for funding a couple of years back, but the film still surprised me.  It's so refreshing to see a film that doesn't telegraph everything before it happens.  So unusual these days!

I have four more films to see before Monday, including a wonderful classic which I've never seen on the big screen before.  Very excited for that one!  Will report back on everything I've seen on Monday...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Insecure Writers' Support Group - November


It's the first Wednesday of November so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts this month,  Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery.

This moth's question is an interesting one:

What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Titles are the bane of my life, so I definitely find coming up with a title harder than writing a blurb.  I don't outline much, so I usually write the blurb for the book I think I'm going to write pretty early on.  Not usually before I start writing, but once I have a feel for my characters and the journey I think they might be taking.  Of course that often changes as I write which means the blurb also gets changed a few times along the way.

Titles are a whole other thing.  My books usually spend most of their genesis being called either by the MC's name (my hard drive is littered with files called "Chris" or "Liz and Vic") or some kind of loose description like "juvvielesbian" or "junkieballerina".  I usually find something better before I start sending out queries, but it's not always the title the book ends up with.

The one time I came up with a title early on was a book called "The Boyfriend Plague".  It's the only time I ever wrote a book to fit the title.  And by the time the book was finished and accepted by a publisher, the title no longer fit and ended up becoming An Unstill Life

My newest WIP has spent its whole genesis being called Juliet and Juliet because it started off being a lesbian re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but kind of moved into something else as I wrote and revised.  And the two girls aren't both called Juliet... One of them is Iris.  But since I haven't come up with a better title yet (I'm thinking something along the lines of Guide Us,  but there's still so much revising that needs to be done, it might change again before I finish) it's just going to stay Juliet x 2 until I come up with something better.

What do you find harder? Blurbs or titles?

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Weekly Goals 1-11-21

 It's November already?  How the heck did that happen?

Not a whole lot of goals for me this week.  The film festival starts on Thursday so the next couple of weeks are going to be a feast of cinema for me.  I didn't manage to get tickets for everything I wanted to go to.  A lot of things sold out pretty quickly because cinemas still have to have social distancing, meaning only about half the capacity can be sold.  But I got most of what I wanted.

Thanks for the tip about cleaning canvases, Patricia!  Worked a treat.  About half an hour in some hot water and the paint just peels right off.  Unfortunately, so does the gesso on the surface of the canvas, but it's not hard to apply some more.  So that's a goal for this week - to re-gesso the canvases I cleaned so I can re-use them.

I got the deck scrubbed down over the weekend, so if the weather is okay next weekend, I will see if I can do the staining.  I've never done it before, so I'm not entirely sure I know what to do, but I'm sure I can figure it out.  I mean, how hard can it be?

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 29-10-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's my anniversary on Sunday.  I've been with my partner for 24 years, if you can believe it!  Unfortunately he's working all weekend so we won't be doing anything special to celebrate this year.  Maybe next year when it's a significant anniversary...

Don't have a lot planned for the weekend, which is nice.  The weather isn't supposed to be great, so I'm thinking painting might be out of the question this week.  Instead I'm planning to scrub down my deck and courtyard to prepare for staining it.  I may even get to stain too, if I'm lucky!

And that's probably about it for celebrations this week.  Lame, huh?

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Books I've read: Thoughts and Prayers


This is not the first book I've read about a school shooting and it probably won't be the last.  This kind of thing seems to have become far too frequent an occurrence in American schools.  

The book opens in the chaos of the shooting and follows a group of survivors through the aftermath.  The survivors are a mixture of students, parents and other adults associated with the shooting.  Which for me, made this a confusing read.  Is it supposed to be YA?  If so, why are there so many adult voices in there?  Or is it for adults?  If so, why doesn't it go deeper into the way this kind of event can affect adult relationships?

Because the book straddled the line between YA and adult, I didn't feel like it really did justice to either audience that well.  The voices of the characters were not distinct enough to recognize who was narrating any one section and the young voices were not that different from the older ones. It was surprising to me to discover the book was written by four authors because the voices were all so similar. 

And there were so many characters to keep straight!

There's Lily who was an accomplice to the shooting in that she let her boyfriend into the school to, she thought, make a little mischief.  There's Keisha, the over-achiever whose life was saved by the guidance counsellor whose office she was in at the time of the shooting.  There's Sofia whose father is one of the policemen who entered the school first to take down the shooter.  There's Caitlin, Sofia's best friend who is shot, but not initially killed in the shooting.

There's Charmaine, the nurse at the hospital who receives the victims and is the wife of the slain guidance counsellor, there's Joe, Sofia's father and the cop who enters the school first, there's Caitlin's father, Mike, dealing with the grief of losing his daughter.

And there's the killer who is known primarily by his initials, ABC.  There are a few sections from his POV too.

The book follows these characters through the shooting and the weeks following it, through their grief and anger and accusation and attempts to heal.  Each has their own way of dealing with the events but they all come together at a support group, not knowing the accomplice they are all anxious to find is actually sitting among them, grieving alongside them and dealing with her guilt at the same time.

The characters were racially diverse - Asian, Latino, Black and white, but I felt a little uncomfortable with the representation. It felt very stereotypical, especially the representation of Lily's parents as Asian tiger parents, interested only in school and not caring about art or anything else.  The Spanish sprinkled into conversation amongst the Latino families didn't feel authentic either, not like the writers actually spoke Spanish with their own families.

This was an interesting book dealing with sensitive and important subject matter, but I feel like it could have been stronger if it had focused only on the teen experiences or only on the adults. Trying to balance both meant neither was fully realized - a shame when dealing with such powerful material.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this one early!

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

Straight-A student Lily Jeong, misunderstood by helicopter parents and ignored by thoughtless classmates, sneaks her manipulative boyfriend into Rockwell High believing he’ll get revenge for her recent public humiliation. But he breaks his promise that no one will get hurt, and minutes later, fourteen people are dead.

Plagued by guilt, Lily invents one lie after another to evade arrest. While devastated survivors grieve, investigators make slow progress identifying the accomplice, and class president Keisha Washington—Lily’s long-time nemesis who narrowly escaped death—resolves to hunt down the culprit herself. As Lily dodges detection, she bonds with Sofia Hernandez, who lost her best friend, Caitlyn Moran, in the shooting.

The adults around them—Joe Hernandez, Sofia’s father, and the first policeman to enter the school; Charmaine Robinson, a nurse whose husband died protecting Keisha; and former Army Colonel Mike Moran, Caitlyn’s father—also struggle to piece together their wrecked lives. When they come together in a support group, instead of finding solace, their mounting feelings of grief and anger drive them to protest and vengeance. Will they ever find justice and peace?

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Weekly Goals 25-10-21

 It always feels weird to be writing my weekly goals on a holiday Monday because it feels like a Sunday.  But of course, it isn't.

I've had a very peaceful long weekend with lots of time to read and paint and do household chores.  Most enjoyable!

  Unfortunately our hot water cylinder decided to stop working on Saturday so we've had no hot water since then because getting a plumber to come out on a long weekend, or even to answer a phone call, proved challenging.  Thankfully I managed to get one to come this morning (at great expense of course) and we should have hot water again this afternoon.  Thank goodness.  I feel so gross with not having had a shower since Friday!  Especially since I've been to the gym.  And I have paint is various places from my painting session on Saturday.

Here are a few examples of what I've been working on (excuse the ugly backgrounds):

Of course those are only the good ones.  I've had a few dismal failures that are stashed away in the shed until I can figure out what to do with them.  I think I may be able to sand off the bulk of the paint and re-use the canvases, but I'm not 100% sure about that.

I still have a few more techniques to try, so my goal is to try those out next week.  I think my hairdryer technique needs some work too.  I haven't been that happy with most of the ones I've done using that.  It's probably me, but it might also be my crappy $19 hairdryer.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 22-10-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?


Yes, it's Labour Day on Monday so I decided to take an extra day off and have a four-day weekend.  Very much looking forward to that.  It's been months since I had even a single day of holiday.

I don't have a huge amount planned for the weekend.  The weather looks like it's going to be good on Friday and Saturday, so I am hoping to do some painting those days.  The rest of the weekend, when the weather looks like it might not be so hot, I guess I'll read and cook and clean up the house.  We need to re-stain our deck, so I might see if I can give that a good scrub to get all the dirt and mould and stuff off before we get the stain on there.

I also plan to do a little more sleeping than I usually do.  I've been quite exhausted the last couple of weeks.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


I picked this one up on a whim at the library because the blurb sounded like it could be interesting.

Set in two time periods - the present and the late 1980s - the book is interspersed with pieces from a fine art catalogue describing a series of artworks that may or may not be on display somewhere.

In 1988 a group of artists gather at a camp in the Maine woods to focus on their craft.  The idyllic location turns nightmarish as secrets pile up and a woman's dead body is left among the trees as the witnesses to her demise scramble to safety.

In the present day Max Durant, a fading artist well past his days of glory is teaching at a Boston university.  He's frustrated with his lack of success and excited by one of his new students, a brilliant but aloof artist called Audra.  She's invited him to her home for the weekend so he can see the pieces she hopes will make up her thesis.

The idyllic weekend he expects turns sinister when he realizes he's close to a place he's been trying to forget for years. And everywhere he turns during this weekend, he seems to be reminded of it.

I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if I hadn't figured out the twists so early on. I figured out the links between the two time periods and the different characters within the first couple of switches between 1988 and the present.  So from then on, I was basically just reading to make sure I got it right.  And I did.  The only thing that was a small surprise was the modern day identity of one of the characters from the 1988 section.

I did enjoy the revenge plot and how beautifully Audra orchestrated every move to ensure Max's sense of discomfort grew throughout his visit.  I love it when smart women best smart men who think they're way smarter than they actually are.  I just wish the author hadn't telegraphed so much early on....

I'd recommend this if you're interested in art and the art world, or if you like revenge stories in which women get the better of men.  

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

A psychological thriller for fans of Lucy Foley and Liz Moore, Dark Things I Adore is a stunning Gone Girl-esque tale of atonement that proves that in the grasp of manipulative men, women may momentarily fall. But in the hands of fierce women, men will be brought to their knees.

Three campfire secrets. Two witnesses. One dead in the trees. And the woman, thirty years later, bent on making the guilty finally pay.

1988. A group of outcasts gather at a small, prestigious arts camp nestled in the Maine woods. They're the painters: bright, hopeful, teeming with potential. But secrets and dark ambitions rise like smoke from a campfire, and the truths they tell will come back to haunt them in ways more deadly than they dreamed.

2018. Esteemed art professor Max Durant arrives at his protégé's remote home to view her graduate thesis collection. He knows Audra is beautiful and brilliant. He knows being invited into her private world is a rare gift. But he doesn't know that Audra has engineered every aspect of their weekend together. Every detail, every conversation. Audra has woven the perfect web.

Only Audra knows what happened that summer in 1988. Max's secret, and the dark things that followed. And even though it won't be easy, Audra knows someone must pay.

A searing thriller of trauma, dark academia, complicity, and revenge, Dark Things I Adore unravels the realities behind campfire legends―the horrors that happen in the dark, the girls who become cautionary tales, and the guilty who go unpunished. Until now.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Weekly Goals 18-10-21

 Another week already?  They seem to roll around so fast!

Goals this week...  Hmmm...  I got selected for a writing contest so one goal is to get my query and first five pages in by Wednesday.  I'm having a crack with My Murder Year this time around since clearly no one is interested in Standing Too Close.  I've been kind of quietly revising My Murder Year in the background and while I don't feel like it's 100% right yet, the first three quarters are in good shape.  It's just the ending I feel is kind of not quite right yet.  The problem with trying to turn a book that wasn't ever meant to be a mystery into something resembling a mystery...

It's a long weekend this weekend so I decided to take an extra day off to make it an extra-long weekend.  With not being able to travel for so long, I have a ton of leave saved up so I might as well take some.  it looks like Friday is going to have the best weather of all the days, so I'm hoping to get some painting done on Friday, and maybe Saturday if the weather holds.

And that's about it for goals.  What are your plans for the week?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 15-10-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

It's been a busy week and on top of that, the weather crapped out and got really cold and wet again.  But it's beautiful again today and I finally managed to ride my bike to work.  Unfortunately I don't believe it's going to last...  Which is a bummer because I wanted to do more painting this weekend, but if the weather's not good, I won't be able to.  At least I might have a chance to get some new colours to work with and a couple of other things I need.  Then I'll be all set for next weekend - the long Labour Day weekend.

My partner and I are going to see the new James Bond movie tomorrow night which I'm looking forward to.  And the film festival programme was released this week, so I need to work out how to see everything I want to see.  I need to be organised because with cinemas at half capacity for social distancing, I imagine a lot of stuff will sell out very quickly!  Tickets go on sale on Monday morning and I want to be ready to go.

The 4K restoration of The Outsiders is playing next week and I'm super excited to see that too.  I've seen The Outsiders hundreds of times, but I've never seen it in a theatre and I'm pretty sure I've never seen the full novel version.  There's a special place in my heart for The Outsiders.  That was the book that made me want to be a writer, that made me realize it was possible for me to be a writer.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Books I've Read: A Town Called Solace


I'm pretty sure I've mentioned Mary Lawson's books here before.  Crow Lake is among my favourite books of all time, and I've enjoyed all her other books too.  So when I saw the Booker Prize longlist and saw her name on it, I was super excited!  It has been a lot of years since her last book came out..

Told from three distinct points of view, A Town Called Solace is the first of Lawson's books to be set outside of the imaginary town of Struan, but Solace is very firmly set in the same Northern Canada area.  I picture the two towns being in close proximity both because the larger city nearby is the same and because the two towns appear to share the same doctor, a character who has appeared in all Lawson's books.

The first POV is a child's.  Clara has been keeping a vigil at the front window of her house since her sister disappeared several weeks ago.  She leaves her post only to go to school and to go next door to feed the cat belonging to the kindly old woman who lives there.  Mrs. Orchard told Clara she was going to the hospital for a short spell, but the weeks have been adding up and Clara is still feeding Moses.

When a young man shows up at Mrs. Orchard's house and appears to be moving in, Clara is startled.

The young man, Liam, is newly divorced, unemployed and drifting, unsure what he's going to do with the rest of his life.  Mrs. Orchard's house is a lifeline while he takes some time out to figure out his future.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Orchard lies in her hospital bed, drifting out of the present and into the past, remembering herself as a heartbroken young woman trying to deal with the latest in a series of miscarriages.  Desperate for a child, she finds comfort in caring for the young boy next door, taking him off his mother's hands while she copes with her older daughters and newborn twins.

How these three peoples' lives entwine and the effects they will have on each others' lives takes time to unfold.  The book's pace unhurried and the story it tells a quiet one.  Yet the revelations, grief and remorse are powerful.  This is a book that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

I really enjoyed this book, although it didn't have the immediate impact on me that Crow Lake did.  The characters build quietly, slipping almost invisibly under your skin until you realize how much you really do care about them and what might happen to them.  And sometimes that kind of subtle, understated storytelling is exactly what you need.

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

A Town Called Solace--the brilliant and emotionally radiant new novel from Mary Lawson, her first in nearly a decade--opens on a family in crisis: rebellious teenager Rose been missing for weeks with no word, and Rose's younger sister, the feisty and fierce Clara, keeps a daily vigil at the living-room window, hoping for her sibling's return.

Enter thirtyish Liam Kane, newly divorced, newly unemployed, newly arrived in this small northern town, where he promptly moves into the house next door--watched suspiciously by astonished and dismayed Clara, whose elderly friend, Mrs. Orchard, owns that home. Around the time of Rose's disappearance, Mrs. Orchard was sent for a short stay in hospital, and Clara promised to keep an eye on the house and its remaining occupant, Mrs. Orchard's cat, Moses. As the novel unfolds, so does the mystery of what has transpired between Mrs Orchard and the newly arrived stranger.

Told through three distinct, compelling points of view--Clara's, Mrs. Orchard's, and Liam Kane's--the novel cuts back and forth among these unforgettable characters to uncover the layers of grief, remorse, and love that connect families, both the ones we're born into and the ones we choose. A Town Called Solace is a masterful, suspenseful and deeply humane novel by one of our great storytellers.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Weekly Goals 11-10-21

 How is it already Monday again?  That weekend flew by!

I managed to get my story polished up and submitted, so I feel good about that.  I also finally got around to buying some paints and canvasses and did my first paintings.  I did four and two I really like.  The other two, not so much.  I only got four colors of paint this week because I wanted to figure out how to do this before investing a whole lot of money into it, so I'll get a few more colors next week and see if I can do some I like more.

Guess what everyone will be getting for Christmas this year?

And that's about it for goals this week.

What are your goals?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 8-10-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

And it has been a crazy week in terms of work.  So many things to do and so little time.

But I still managed for find time to go to the movies the other night.  I saw Annette, which is completely bonkers.  I loved every demented minute of it!  Highly recommend if you a) can suspend your disbelief a looooong way, b) like the band Sparks, c) consider Adam Driver one of the finest actors in his generation.

I'm having a film-y week this week (which shouldn't be unusual - I do work in the film industry) and am going to the opening of a short film festival tonight.  Unfortunately the organisers, who I have worked with for many, many years now, won't be there because Auckland is still in lockdown.  But on the plus side, at least the festival can go ahead outside Auckland, in cinemas where films are meant to be seen.

I don't have a lot planned for the weekend, so am hoping to get some time to read.  I also have a short story I'm trying to polish up to submit to a journal.  The kids are on holiday, so I figure they can do the housework while I write.

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Insecure Writers Support Group October Edition


It's the beginning of October so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The awesome co-hosts for the October 6 posting of the IWSG areJemima Pitt, J Lenni Dorner, Cathrina Constantine, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, and Mary Aalgaard!

This month's question is a goodie:  In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?

Interesting question.  I don't think I draw the line anywhere, with either subject matter or language.  I tend to follow my characters through their stories and sometimes that takes me places I wouldn't necessarily be comfortable.  But if that's where the character's journey takes them, I have to go along too.  And sometimes that means researching things I'd rather not know too much about.  

Research is key if your character is taking you into a space you know very little about.  If what they are experiencing doesn't feel authentic, you'll lose the reader.

There is certainly no language I wouldn't use.  Some people use foul language all the time.  Others don't.  Some of my characters swear all the time while others barely let a bad word pass over their lips.  Allowing them to speak the way they feel comfortable speaking makes them more real.

As a YA writer, maybe I should draw the line somewhere, but I feel like the stories I write are realistic to the experiences teens have.  They swear.  They have sex. They do stuff without really considering the consequences.  They get into situations they can't understand or handle.  Sometimes they get hurt or damaged in the process.  I like to dive into these messy, challenging situations with my characters and hope like hell they'll learn something important in the process.

Do you have a line you won't cross in your writing?  Where is it?

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Weekly Goals 4-10-21

 I seem to have got through my second vax without any significant side effects.  My arm is sore, but I haven't felt sick or tired or any of the things other people seem to have experienced.  I'm not complaining!

I have a busy week ahead of me at work.  There is always way more to do than there is time to do it.

The weather looks like it's going to be terrible until Sunday, so I guess I'm not going to be riding my bike to work much.  How annoying!  Especially since I paid a small fortune on getting it all spruced up.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 1-10-21

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I thought my computer had given up the ghost this morning and was having a small freak out about it because I'm about 50 pages away from finishing the beta read I've been doing for a friend.  Thankfully my partner managed to get it going again without any obvious glitches.

It's the weekend and it looks like the weather is going to be good.  I'm going up the coast on Sunday to see my friend who I haven't seen since well before the lockdown.  Will be great to catch up with her.

My bike has been serviced (at great cost - it needed a lot of parts replaced) and it is going like a dream.  I rode to work on Friday and it was amazing.  So nice to be able to switch between gears again!

I have my second vaccine tomorrow, so fingers crossed it doesn't make me feel crook.  Some of my colleagues have felt quite rotten for a day or so after the second one, but other people, like my parents, didn't have any side affects at all.  Fingers crossed I'm one of the lucky ones.

what are you celebrating this week?