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?

LOOOOOOOOONG weekend!

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?

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Books I've Read: Another Life

 


This book looked interesting when I saw it at the library, so I picked it up.  

It's set over one summer in a small upstate-New York town and follows a loosely linked group of protagonists through this period.

There's Laura, a fifteen-year-old girl trying to figure out who she is.  Her best friend, Bethany, is suddenly infatuated with a girl who hangs out with a different crowd and Laura feels left out.  More and more she turns to the guy she's been talking to on a dating site online after setting up a fake profile as a joke.  As things between her and Bethany become more and more strained, this relationship becomes the most important thing in Laura's life, never mind the person Paul thinks he's talking to is not fifteen-year-old Laura.

April is Laura's mother, a divorced math teacher who spends her summer running the church Bible camp.  More and more dissatisfied with her life and her choices, she falls into a reckless affair with a much younger man and finds herself enjoying herself for the first time in years.

Paul used to be the home-town hero.  A local rock star, he left after high school to hit the big time in New York.  Now he's back, having failed to make his dream come true.  He spends his days in his childhood bedroom at his mother's house, and his nights driving aimlessly around town.  When his mother gets him a job as the sound operator at church, his path crosses April's and for the first time he sees her as something other than his high school math teacher.

Finally there's Ben, a thirteen-year-old kid at the church Bible camp.  He's hopelessly in love with Bethany, but will never tell her.  He's struggling to figure out how to relate to his new foster brother, a sullen Black kid called De Shawn.  And why does De Shawn get the attention from Bethany he so desperately wants?

I really enjoyed this book at first.  The characters were interesting with their different wants and desires and the small town setting gave a real sense of claustrophobia.  It was interesting to get to know each individual and figure out how they fitted into the world of the story, how the connections would form between them all.

Unfortunately, it kind of petered out at the end and only two of the characters really got any resolution.  And they weren't the characters I was the most interested in.  I guess this leaves things open for a sequel, but I would have liked to have seen all four stories come to some kind of conclusion.  I left the book feeling somewhat gyped by not getting this.

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

Vacation Bible School got a little out of hand this year.

Laura: a teenage girl struggling to fit into her small, sleepy town in upstate New York, slowly drifting away from reality and into the secret life she inhabits online. Paul: a twentysomething wannabe rock star, back home from New York City, broke and jobless, living with his mother. April: a math teacher with two kids, running her church’s Vacation Bible School, discontent with another summer planning crafts and regurgitating verses. Ben: a boy stuck at VBS, still adjusting to the presence of his foster brother, DeShawn, a quiet, brooding kid from Brooklyn.

Over the course of one summer, these characters’ paths will collide in surprising, often hilarious ways. Encompassing questions of identity, religion, race, and family, Another Life is an absorbing and thought-provoking debut about the line we all walk between desire and responsibility.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Weekly Goals 27-9-21

 My main goal for this week is to start riding my bike to work again.  Unfortunately it's absolutely hosing down with rain right now, so I don't think I'll be doing that today...

Other than that, I don't have a lot of goals.  I'm working on a beta read for a friend which I'd like to get done by the end of the week.

But that's about it...  Not that exciting, right?  On day I'll have some real goals again...  Maybe.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 24-9-21




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

What am I celebrating this week?

Weekend!

It's been a very long and busy week and I'm exhausted.  Looking forward to a quiet(ish) weekend.  The weather doesn't look like it's going to be that great, so I hope to get lots of house stuff done as well as doing a big chunk of a beta read for a friend.  And some cooking.  

I have a few ideas of things I want to try out, and the weekend is the perfect time to do that.  I found a recipe for simple cronuts that I thought I might try, and a no-knead bread which intrigues me too.  Not that I mind kneading.  I actually quite like it.  But it's interesting because kneading smooths the dough and breaks down the gluten in the flour, so I'm not sure what no-knead bread might be like.  Coarser in the crumb, maybe?  I guess I'll find out! 

Daylight saving starts on Sunday, so I lose an hour of sleep.  Definitely not thrilled about that, but looking forward to being able to ride my bike to and from work again.  I'm getting my bike serviced next week which will be great.  Not sure if I'll ride before then, but I guess that will depend on the weather too.

What are you celebrating this week?




Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Books I've Loved: The Sweet Hereafter

 


You know how everyone always says the book is better than the movie?  Well, this is one of the rare cases where I feel like the movie is better than the book.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I love this book and Russell Banks is one of my all-time favourite authors, but there are layers in the film that elevate it above the source material.  Kind of the way Frank Darabont elevated Stephen King  in both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.

Anyway...  I re-read this book last week while I waited for the library to reopen after lockdown.

It's the story of a school bus accident in a small town in upstate New York and how the community is devastated by the loss of so many of its children.  There are four different points of view telling the story - the driver of the bus, the father of two kids who were killed, the lawyer who is trying to get the townsfolk to band together for a law suit and one of the few survivors of the crash, a young girl now confined to a wheelchair.

These different perspectives highlight not just the varied views of the actual crash and what happened, but the way the townsfolk respond to it.  The bus driver is a local woman, well liked and much admired.  No one knows how to speak to her after the accident.  Everyone knows that she was not really responsible for the crash, yet they can't look at her or speak to her, knowing that she is responsible for their grief.

The lawyer has his own reasons for so fiercely pursuing the case.  His own daughter isn't dead, but is just as lost to him as any of the children who drowned in the frozen pond.  He would never admit it, but fighting for justice for these kids makes him feel better about being unable to help his own child.

The father was driving behind the bus and watched it crash with his twins in the back.  Recently widowed and struggling with a drinking problem that is just on the verge of becoming a real problem, he has been indulging in an illicit affair with a local woman who, with her husband, runs a struggling motel.  Following the crash and the loss of their children, they discover how little they really have in common and their relationship fizzled out, leaving Billy with nothing but his grief and a bottle.

Nichole, one of the few children to survive the crash, comes home to a family and a hometown she no longer recognises.  For years she has been harbouring a dirty secret about her father, a secret that festers within her.  When she is asked to talk to the lawyers about what she saw he day of the accident, she realizes that, for the first time, she holds the power and uses it to hurt her father as gravely as he ever hurt her.  

This is a beautiful and very sad story that asks some serious questions about what a community is, and what it should do when the very worst thing you can imagine happens.  As I mentioned, I think the film (by Canadian/Armenian director Atom Egoyan) is better than the book - more layered, more beautiful - but the book does give more depth to a couple of the character points of view, especially Nichole's and Billy's.

I would certainly recommend this one, but more so, another of Bank's books that references this one, The Rule of the Bone. In that one, the characters wind up living in the wrecked bus that was pulled from the pond for a while...I love little things like that and often try to drop them into my own books.

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

When fourteen children from the small town of Sam Dent are lost in a tragic accident, its citizens are confronted with one of life’s most difficult and disturbing questions: When the worst happens, whom do you blame, and how do you cope? Masterfully written, it is a large-hearted novel that brings to life a cast of unforgettable small-town characters and illuminates the mysteries and realities of love as well as grief.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Weekly Goals 20-9-21

I'm not entirely sure why I still do this weekly goals post.  I'm still not writing, so I don't have any writing goals.  I keep expecting a story idea to attack me and demand to be told, but so far, there hasn't been anything like that.  I have read through a lot of my unfinished and almost-finished novels and keep waiting for some inspiration to strike, but again.... nothing.

Maybe one day it will come back.  Maybe not.  This is certainly the longest I've ever gone without writing anything new.  I keep hoping something might come before November so I can do NaNo.  But I'm not going to sign up if I don't have a story I need to tell.  I'm not wasting my precious holiday days to write if there's nothing there to write.

So instead my goal this week is to book my bike in for a service. Daylight savings starts next weekend so I'll be able to ride to work again from next week, but my bike is in desperate need of some professional attention.

What are your goals this week?


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 17-9-21

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

My older son's birthday and finding it hard to believe he's 17!  How did that happen?

It's the weekend and my partner is working right through it so I will have the house, at least the parts that aren't the kids' rooms, to myself.  Which will be nice.

The gym has re-opened, so I will attempt to do a weights class for the first time in weeks.  I imagine it's going to hurt.

A group of friends have plans to go to an art exhibition, but we're not sure exactly what the rules might be around that at this stage, so I'm not entirely sure we will be going.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Books I've Loved: The Way the Crow Flies

 


I finished all my library books the first weekend of our latest lockdown and was forced to trawl my bookshelves at home for things to read.  Since the same thing happened during last year's lockdown, I found there wasn't much there I hadn't read recently.  

Then I came upon this book and decided to give it a whirl.

Basically it is a family saga spanning twenty-years in the McCarthy family.  But at the same time it's a mystery and a thoughtful examination of Canada's part in the Cold War.

The McCarthys are an Air Force family.  The book opens as they are driving to the Air Force base in the middle of nowhere that will be their new home after their most recent posting in Germany.  Father, Jack, is excited to be returning to Centralia where he did his training.  He has happy memories of the base, despite it being the site of the plane crash that scuppered his flying career just as the War was ramping up.

The living quarters at Centralia create a picture-perfect suburbia.  There is ample space for the kids to play, but they are rarely out of sight from one or more attentive mother.  It doesn't take long for Madeline, the younger of the McCarthy's two children, to make friends within the community.

Wife, Mimi, beautiful, exotic and still very much in love with her husband, Jack, is so used to re-settling, it takes no time at all to get the house looking and feeling like a home.  She quickly befriends the other wives and is easily accepted into their social groups.

Jack has a little more trouble settling in.  He has things on his mind.  Secret things.  He has been asked by an old acquaintance to be part of a top secret mission.  Initially, it doesn't seem hard, but as the demands on him become greater, he finds himself in the difficult position of having to lie to his wife to protect his secrets.

And when a local girl, a girl in his beloved Madeline's class, is murdered, he finds himself in a position where his loyalties are torn.  Unable to reconcile the secret with the public and his own role in the events spiraling out of control, he gives his daughter advice that will echo through the next twenty years of  their lives.

I loved this book.  The Cold War setting gave even the most idyllic moments a sense of disquiet and unease.  Madeline is a very real child, dealing with questions and moral ambiguity beyond her ability to understand.  The supporting characters are also really well drawn, particularly the slightly odd German neighbors who Jack quickly befriends.

It is a long book, and I feel like there are definitely parts that could have been edited down, or cut out, but it is very enjoyable and will keep you guessing right until the very last pages.

Definitely recommended!

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

The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity of human morality -- one she will only begin to understand when she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Weekly Goals 13-9-21

 I'm afraid I don't really have any goals this week.  I haven't thought of any, and since I didn't really fulfill any of last week's, it seems a little pointless to set any for this week.

The gym has re-opened, so I'm very keen to get back into my regular routine there again.  I hate to think how low my weights are going to need to be this weekend, after a month or so of not lifting.  And just when I'd managed to build up to a decent level again too!

But that's about it for goals.  I'm not even going to say I'll write this week because it's pretty clear that I'm not going to write.  There's nothing there, as much as I want there to be.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 10, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 10-9-21

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

The beginning of a return to normality, really.  Auckland is still in lockdown, but the rest of the country has moved into Level 2 which means things are beginning to go back to normal.  It's a little different than last time we were here because Delta is so much more transmissible so the government is being much more cautious.  

I went back to the office on Thursday and it is just so much nicer working form there than on my own at home.  Most people were still working from home so it was super quiet, but most of my team were there.

My cat, Lola, went missing last Friday afternoon.  She's done this before, so I wasn't too worried about her until she still hadn't shown up on Monday.  When she was still missing on Tuesday, I started doing all those things you do for lost pets - listing her on the missing pet websites, community message boards etc and registering her microchip as being a missing cat.  I printed flyers and put them in all the neighbors' letter-boxes.  

Still no sign of Lola.

Then yesterday afternoon my partner sent me a video text of her just wandering casually into the dining room as if she hadn't been away for a full week.  What a relief!  I have no idea where she has been, and probably won't ever find out, but she doesn't look any worse for wear, just a little skinnier than she was when she left.  My partner says he thought she smelled like old lady when she came home, which makes me wonder if she decided to move in with the 103-year-old woman who lives behind us for a few days...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Books I've Read: Outside Looking In

 


I seem to have picked up a few of T.C. Boyle's books recently, after not having read anything by him for a number of years.  Not really on purpose either, just because they looked interesting.

This one is set at Harvard in the 1960s.  Fitz is a graduate student, married with a child and a little older than most of the other grad students in his psych class.  Yet still young enough to be as much in the thrall of of his charismatic professor as any of the other students. 

Tim is experimenting on the cutting edge of psychology, using LSD, a drug first synthesised in Germany during WWII, to explore the possibilities of the human mind.  It is a course requirement that all the students partake and Tim hosts regular Saturday night gatherings for his acolytes.  Fitz is initially wary, but wants to remain in the course and does not want to be isolated from Tim.

When he and Joanie join their first gathering, the drug blows both their minds.  Everything is better, heightened by LSD.

Before long, what began as clinical trials starts spinning out of control.  Tim's core group spends a summer away from the university, living and tripping as a new community in Mexico.  Lines and loyalties blur as this enlightened community searches for God and the meaning of existence while on increasingly large doses of hallucinogens.

When their lifestyle experiments lead to expulsion from Harvard, they move into an empty rural mansion to continue their search for enlightenment.  But as time goes on, financial considerations, loyalties and the shifting group dynamics make what once seemed like paradise into a living hell.

I kind of enjoyed this book, even though all the characters - and there were a lot of them - really irritated me.  It felt very real and exactly what I imagine commune living to be like.  There is a reason why I don't live on a commune...

Weirdly, it never occurred to me that the Tim in the book was supposed to be Timothy Leary!  Guess I should have read the blurb before I started reading.  I might have read him differently if I had figured that out.  Although I doubt he would have been any less irritating.

If you're interested in the '60s counterculture, this is a good introduction that doesn't gloss over the downsides of living a perpetually high life.  I'd recommend it, but with the caveat that the characters are kind of losers and difficult to like.

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

A provocative new novel from bestselling author T.C. Boyle exploring the first scientific and recreational forays into LSD and its mind-altering possibilities

In this stirring and insightful novel, T.C. Boyle takes us back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout our culture: LSD.

In 1943, LSD is synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of grad students at Harvard are gradually drawn into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, become entranced by the drug’s possibilities such that their “research” becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead turns into a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living. With his trademark humor and pathos, Boyle moves us through the Loneys’ initiation at one of Leary’s parties to his notorious summer seminars in Zihuatanejo until the Loneys’ eventual expulsion from Harvard and their introduction to a communal arrangement of thirty devotees—students, wives, and children—living together in a sixty-four room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning.

Is LSD a belief system? Does it allow you to see God? Can the Loneys’ marriage—or any marriage, for that matter—survive the chaotic and sometimes orgiastic use of psychedelic drugs? Wry, witty, and wise, Outside Looking In is an ideal subject for this American master, and highlights Boyle’s acrobatic prose, detailed plots, and big ideas. It’s an utterly engaging and occasionally trippy look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness, as well as our seemingly infinite capacities for creativity, re-invention, and self-discovery.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Weekly Goals 6-9-21

 Heading into week three in lockdown...  The government are making an announcement this afternoon that will likely change the alert levels sometime this week.  Fingers crossed we go down to a level where we can leave home again.

The weather has been gorgeous all weekend, if a little windy, so fingers crossed that lasts.  If we have to stay home, at least the weather could co-operate and allow us to get out for a walk.

My goals this week are pretty simple.  Keep querying.  Try to write something, anything, it doesn't matter. I just need to exercise that muscle again before it atrophies completely.

Keep exercising daily to keep myself sane.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 3-9-21

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

Spring has sprung where I live.  Oh, I know it won't last. Spring in Wellington usually means high winds, rains and chilly temperatures.  But today it's cloudless and the sun is warm and I just spent my lunchbreak reading in my back yard.  Glorious!

I have sent off a handful more queries.  Still no response from most of them, so there is still hope.

We're still in lockdown, but the case numbers are dropping and the majority of them are in Auckland, not here so I feel quite optimistic that we might move down a level next week and be able to go back to semi-normal.  Back to the office, anyway.  I hate working from home.  And back to the gym.  I feel like all the work I did on my muscles pre-lockdown has been undone.  And the library.  I finished all my library books last weekend and am desperate for something new to read.

What are you celebrating this week?




Tuesday, August 31, 2021

IWSG - September


It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

The awesome co-hosts for the September 1 posting of the IWSG are Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month's question is a good one:

 How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

I feel like success changes as you move through your writing journey.  I still remember the sense of achievement I felt when my first short story was accepted for publication.  I felt like a success.  But somehow, after having 20+ short stories published, the sense of that being a measure of success wained somewhat.

Finishing my first novel felt like a success.  And to be honest, that's one that never gets old.  Even after having written fourteen or fifteen novels, typing THE END still makes me feel successful.  

My first request for a full manuscript from an agent felt like a success, as did signing with my first agent and publishing my first novel. Holding that first novel in my hand.  Seeing it on the shelves at my local library. Getting good reviews.  All these things are milestones in my journey as a writer and each time I pass one of these, I feel like a success.

Unfortunately, that sense of success fades when you realize there's always another milestone to reach.

And it's not always a straightforward, linear path that we follow as writers.  Often we slip back a few steps and have reach the same milestone again.  My first publisher went out of business, orphaning my book.  My agent left the business, leaving me back in the query trenches which seem to have changed significantly since the last time I ventured in.

From a purely financial standpoint, no one would call me a success.  I've been writing 'professionally' for over ten years now, and even with four novels and umpteen stories published and fantastic reviews almost across the board, my total earnings are pitiful.  I don't feel like I'll even be able to give up my day job to write full time.

Yet I don't feel unsuccessful.  I achieved something I have dreamed of since I was about twelve and first decided that writing was something I wanted to do.  So even if I never reach the level of popularity and wealth I once dreamed of, never get another agent, never sell that book I believe is the best I've ever written, I still see myself as a success.

How do you define success as a writer?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Weekly Goals 30-8-21

 Since I'm on a roll with this query thing, I guess I should keep going.  So my goal this week is to send out another five or six queries.

We're still in lockdown, so my other goal is to get out and exercise every day.  The weather may not be that cooperative, but there's usually a small window in there each day where I can get out.  I even managed to do quite long periods over the weekend, despite the weather.

Plus, a bunch of us at work are doing a squat challenge.  I got up to 200 squats last week, so this week I'm going to challenge myself by adding weights rather than trying to do a higher number.

And that's about it for goals.  Fingers crossed we can move into Level 2 in a week or so and life can go back to semi-normal.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 27-8-21

 

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

What am I celebrating this week?

We're still in lockdown, but on Wednesday everywhere outside of Auckland and the far North are moving to Level 3.  Which isn't really a whole lot different except restaurants and shops can open if they can do contactless service.  So basically, what we have now, but with takeaways...  

I sent out a bunch more queries, which I had planned to do.  No replies yet, so there's still hope!

It's the weekend, which doesn't actually feel that different since we've been at home for almost two weeks anyway.  I just don't have to do work.  Which is nice, because it's been a crazy busy week and everything is so much harder when we're not in the office together.  And next week looks like it's going to be even worse, except I have managed to get the first draft of the major report I've been working on finished and ready to send out for review.

The weather looks like it's going to be dreadful all weekend, so the one thing we can do to get out of the house - exercise - might not even be on the cards this week.  I might have to bake instead...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Books I've Read: Talk To Me

 


I don't know why I keep reading books about chimps.  They always make me sad in the end...  Something about how human chimps are, and how badly us humans often treat them.

Set in the '70s, this book follows a juvenile chimpanzee called Sam.  Sam doesn't know he's a chimp.  He's been brought up as a human child with a human family.  Guy, the researcher who has raised him,. has recently separated from his wife and is relying on students at the university where he teaches to help care for Sam.

Sam has been taught sign language and Guy is determined to use this grasp of language to find out exactly how chimps might think and feel.  But to keep the research going, he needs to keep funding for the project.  Raising a chimp isn't cheap!

So Sam gets trotted out on talk shows to strut his stuff in the hope that wealthy benefactors might donate.  And one night Aimee, a student at the university, sees one of these appearances and is entranced.  She applies to help care for Sam the next day.

It isn't long before she and Sam are inseparable.  And a little later she begins sleeping with Guy.  It's all happy families until the head of the research project pulls the plug and takes Sam back to his farm in Iowa.

Aimee doesn't think twice before packing her car and going after Sam.  She's as bonded to the chimp as any mother to her child.  But with people this ruthless on her heels, it's not going to be an easy ride...

I loved the way the book interspersed the narrative with chapters from Sam's own point of view.  His distress and fear when locked up is palpable as is his joy when Aimee reappears.  I'm not sure if chimps really think this way, but it feels very plausible for a chimp who was brought up as a human.

What I'm really not sure about is the ethics of bringing a chimp up this way.  I've read several books in which this has happened, and it's always fine while the chimp is young.  As soon as they get older, reach adolescence, things start spiralling out of control. 

I find it hard to believe someone as cruel as Montcrief would be in charge of animals and running an animal study, but apart from this broad, villainous characterisation, the other characters were very well drawn - even if they weren't all great people.  I particularly liked the woman who ran the trailer park.  Her decision-making felt all too real.

I'd recommend this one, but with the warning that you may want to keep some tissues handy.  It's thought-provoking, but also very sad.

But don't just listen to me.

Here's the blurb:

From bestselling and award-winning author T.C. Boyle, a lively, thought-provoking novel that asks us what it would be like if we could really talk to the animals

When animal behaviorist Guy Schermerhorn demonstrates on a TV game show that he has taught Sam, his juvenile chimp, to speak in sign language, Aimee Villard, an undergraduate at Guy's university, is so taken with the performance that she applies to become his assistant. A romantic and intellectual attachment soon morphs into an interspecies love triangle that pushes hard at the boundaries of consciousness and the question of what we know and how we know it.

What if it were possible to speak to the members of another species—to converse with them, not just give commands or coach them but to really have an exchange of ideas and a meeting of minds? Did apes have God? Did they have souls? Did they know about death and redemption? About prayer? The economy, rockets, space? Did they miss the jungle? Did they even know what the jungle was? Did they dream? Make wishes? Hope for the future?

These are some the questions T.C. Boyle asks in his wide-ranging and hilarious new novel Talk to Me, exploring what it means to be human, to communicate with another, and to truly know another person—or animal…

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Weekly Goals: 23-8-21

 We're still in lockdown, so I feel like making goals is probably more important than ever this week.  

I don't think we're getting out of this any time soon.  The numbers are still climbing and a lot of the infected people were at crowded places like schools and supermarkets and churches, so I think we're going to see a lot more infections before they start slowing down.

I started sending out queries for Standing Too Close again last week.  Just a small handful.  So far nothing, but I have had only one reply so far.  So this week I plan to send out a few more.  Maybe another five or so.

I will also exercise every day.  Being in lockdown means no gym, but I can walk and ride my bike (short distances), so I will try and get out and do that every day.  Fingers crossed the weather will co-operate.

And that's about it.  I ave a lot of work to do, so at least I won't get bored!

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 20-8-21

  

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

What am I celebrating this week?

Well, the entire country is in lockdown again, so I guess I'm celebrating having a government that actually gives a shit about people's wellbeing.  We went into lockdown on Tuesday night after a single COVID case was found in the community.  That number has already jumped to over 20 and looks like it will grow even more.

Thankfully it looks like all the cases are linked and they have already traced where the infection began.  Unfortunately some of the infected people went to a lot of different places over the weekend, many of them very crowded.  And with this Delta variant, we've got to expect it to have spread even further.

At the moment the whole country is only supposed to be in lockdown until tonight, but I can't help thinking it's going to be longer.  So far the cases are all in Auckland, but I suspect there will be some popping up in other places in the next day or two.  We will find out at the briefing later today.

Glad I stayed at work late on Tuesday to hear the briefing from Jacinda because it meant I could get prepared to work at home.  Some of my colleagues were more optimistic and didn't take their screens etc. home.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Books I've Read: Daisy Jones & The Six

 


I've been wanting to read this one since I first read about it, but could never find it in the library.  So when I saw it on the shelf at my favourite bookstore on the day I had a birthday book voucher burning a hole in my pocket, I jumped at the chance to buy it.  It sounds like something right up my alley, right?

Well, yes and no...

The subject matter is right up my alley, but I didn't love the way the book is written.  It's in the form of an interview with a variety of people directly and indirectly involved in the story giving their two cents about what happened. 

You'd think this would give the story an immediacy - the events are coming out of the mouths of the people who actually experienced them - but this isn't actually the case.  I found I was not that emotionally engaged with any of the characters because they felt a long way from the events.  Which makes sense - the interview is taking place thirty or so years after the period the book is actually about.  

Bands and the dynamic between the members is such fertile ground for storytelling.  There is always so much conflict to mine.  And there is certainly that in The Six.  And even more once Daisy Jones joins them and sends them skyrocketing toward stardom.

You know she's going to create tension from the moment she first sings with the group.  She's that kind of woman.  Dangerous, desirable and just a little bit out of control.  And charismatic enough to outshine even the front man of The Six.

It's not a new story or one that hasn't been told (and lived) many times before.  And I kind of wanted it to be.  Even if it was just in the telling.  

Unfortunately I didn't get that.  I got a bunch of older people looking back on a period in which they were young with the perspective that comes with age.  They recognise the things they did that were stupid and impulsive and hurt those around them.  They apologise for these things and admit they were the acts of thoughtless young people.

It's still a good story, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd been thrust into the scene alongside the characters, living their experiences warts and all without the hindsight.

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

A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up.

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Weekly Goals 16-8-21

 I actually have a goal this week!

I sent off a new query on Saturday, and my goal this week is to send off a five more.  I stopped querying in April because it was getting soul destroying, but I think I'm ready to plunge back in now.  So fingers crossed this time around I'll get some requests!

Other than that, it's going to be a busy week at work, so I'm not pushing myself to do anything other than get through that and get my big project close to completion.

What are your goals this week?


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 13-8-21

 


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!  Friday the 13th to be precise...  Everyone, be careful out there.

It's been a busy week with a film premiere and a lot of writing for work, mostly incredibly boring.

My son released his first album.  You can buy it here

One of my favourite Joan Crawford films, Mildred Pierce is playing at my local cinema on Sunday so I'm taking my father-in-law along to see that.  I've seen it about 10 times, but I still love it.  If I ever get another cat her name is going to be Joan Clawford...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Books I've Read: More Than Just a Pretty Face



I enjoyed this one.  It's not a particularly deep read, but it's fun and offers some interesting insights into a different culture.

Danyal isn't great at school.   He's funny, gorgeous and a whizz in the kitchen though and dreams of being a chef.  Unfortunately his very traditional family don't see being a chef as a valid career choice and worry that this ambition will make it harder for them to find him a suitable wife.

Danyal knows he's already found the love of his life in his best friend's sister, Kaval.  Unfortunately he knows Kaval is way out of his league.  But when she suddenly starts taking an interest in him, talking to him and maybe even flirting a little, Danyal thinks he might just have a chance.

When he meets Bisma as part of his parents' ongoing matchmaking efforts, he likes her.  She's upfront and honest about why her parents are presenting her to Danyal, someone who is not a great prospect for an arranged marriage - she's been involved in a scandal and is damaged goods.  When he gets selected to compete in Renaissance Man, his school's elite academic competition, Danyal enlists Bisma's help.  Maybe he can prove to the world he's not as stupid as they think.

The more time Danyal spends with Bisma, the more he realizes he enjoys his company.  She accepts him for who he is, unlike Kaval who wants him to change his life plans to make himself a more acceptable suitor.  Maybe Kaval isn't the girl of his dreams after all...

This is a light, funny rom-com with some serious undertones.  Arranged marriage is still common in many cultures and this book shows the challenges and absurdities of the custom while also underlining why it happens and why it works for so many couples.

Danyal is a great protagonist.  He's funny and flawed but everything he says and does comes from the right place - even when it comes out all wrong.

So I'd recommend this one.  

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

For fans of Becky Albertalli and Jenny Han, a sweetly funny YA rom-com debut about falling in love, familial expectations, and being a Renaissance Man.

Danyal Jilani doesn't lack confidence. He may not be the smartest guy in the room, but he's funny, gorgeous, and going to make a great chef one day. His father doesn't approve of his career choice, but that hardly matters. What does matter is the opinion of Danyal's longtime crush, the perfect-in-all-ways Kaval, and her family, who consider him a less than ideal arranged marriage prospect.

When Danyal gets selected for Renaissance Man--a school-wide academic championship--it's the perfect opportunity to show everyone he's smarter than they think. He recruits the brilliant, totally-uninterested-in-him Bisma to help with the competition, but the more time Danyal spends with her...the more he learns from her...the more he cooks for her...the more he realizes that happiness may be staring him right in his pretty face.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Weekly Goals 9-8-21

 Once again I find myself without much to say here in my week goals post.  My goal is to just get through another week.  Isn't that depressing?  Is this what normal, non-writing people feel all the time?

Maybe it's just mid-winter blues on my part.  It's freezing here right now, howling gales and pouring rain.  It's probably affecting my mood.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 6-8-21





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 I have absolutely nothing serious planned!  

It's been a long week, so I am looking forward to having a quiet weekend.  My partner's working the whole weekend too, so I'll have the house to myself.  Well, except for the kids, but they barely ever leave the room unless meals are involved.

So I am looking forward to doing some sleeping and reading and cooking and stuff...

And that's about it I'm afraid.   Although I may look at a short story for an anthology I've been invited to submit to.  I'm just not sure if my story is joyful enough to fit the theme.  Joyful is not really something I do a lot of in my writing...  But there may be ways to make the story I have in mind feel a little more upbeat.

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

IWSG - August 2021

 It's the first Wednesday of the month so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group...






The awesome co-hosts for the August 4 posting of the IWSG are PK Hrezo, Cathrina Constantine, PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, and Sandra Cox!

This month's question is: 

What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique. And why?

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of writing craft books.  I have read a few, but I generally find they kind of flummox me and after reading one, I can't write.  I'm too busy trying to analyze my work and figure out how to fit my story to whatever technique said craft book has suggested.

My favorite craft books have actually been about screenwriting rather than novel writing.  The lessons can obviously transfer across though.  William Goldman's More Adventures in the Screen Trade is a great read. Entertaining and informative.  I can also recommend Robert McKee's Story.  

And of course there's Save the Cat.  Everyone recommends that one.

I think reading too many craft books can be confusing.  They all say slightly different things and you can end up wth a whole lot of conflicting rules in your head.  I think you can learn more about how to write well from reading a lot and reading widely.  Then you'll discover what you like and don't like, what works and what doesn't and how to break those rules the craft books tell you are unbreakable.

What craft books would you recommend?

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Weekly Goals 2-8-21

 Once again I feel somewhat adrift without any writing goals to work toward.  But at the same time, I don't feel ready to write yet.  I'm starting to wonder if I ever will...

Although, I am doing a considerable amount of writing at work.  It's that time of the year where I have a major report to write, so it is never a good time of year to try and do any creative writing anyway.  I have a tendency to run out of words...

I have been reading a lot though.  I finished three books over the weekend, so that's something.  Not quite sure how I managed that with all the cooking I had to do too.  I made four different desserts over two days!

No desserts this week, I swear...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 30-7-21




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

What am I celebrating this week?

Well... this:


See that #1 best seller banner up there?  Pretty cool, huh?  I've been kind of buzzing about it all afternoon!  

This might just be the news to kick start me into writing again.  Maybe...

Just not this weekend because I have a lot of cooking I need to do this weekend.  My team at work are in charge of running celebrations for Epetoma o te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani  -  Cook Islands Language Week, and my role is to bring the delicious Cook Islands treats for morning tea on Monday.  Which means a big chunk of my weekend is going to be baking said treats...  Luckily I like cooking and baking!

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Books I've Read: In the Time of the Manaroans

 


For some reason I seem to have picked up a lot of memoirs lately and this was one of them, loaned to me from a friend.  I was interested in it because Canvastown is a place we drive through on our way to Kaiteriteri every year, and I never suspected that it was a hotbed of hippy activity in the 70s.

I wish I could say I enjoyed this book, but I really didn't.  I never felt any connection to the narrator or any emotion about anything that happened to her.  The book is written in a way that keeps the reader at a remove, telling us about the events of her life rather than drawing us in and showing them.

Some pretty awful things happen to this poor teenager as she moves from place to place, struggling to get an education and to find a place in the world to call her own.  Yet I never felt any emotions about any of these events.  Unwanted sex with older men is written about in much the same way as painting a caravan.  It's all very beautiful and lyrical, but the language doesn't allow the reader in.

The characters in this story are fairly well drawn, but there is a kind of sameness about them.  For people who professs to care passionately about changing the world, they seem remarkably selfish, focused solely on their own personal journeys and desires.  It seems incredible to me that not one of these people did anything much to ensure these young people living among them were taken care of.

For anyone who has ever imagined hippy life as being free and easy, this book will bring that illusion crashing down.  The hippy world described here is one of poverty and hard work.  Just getting a cup of tea made in the Manaroan commune is a task that will take most of the morning.  Living off the land isn't easy when the land you're living on is unforgiving.

While I didn't particularly enjoy this book, I'm glad I read it.  It gave me insight into a world I was only vaguely aware existed in my own country.  I just wish the author had given more of herself in this memoir as I think it would have been far more impactful if we'd been allowed more deeply into her thoughts and feelings about the places and events described.

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

At fourteen Miro Bilbrough falls out with the communist grandmother who has raised her since she was seven, and is sent to live with her father and his rural-hippy friends. It is 1978, Canvastown, New Zealand, and the Floodhouse is a dwelling of pre-industrial gifts and deficiencies set on the banks of the Wakamarina River, which routinely invades its rooms.

Isolated in rural poverty, the lives of Miro and her father and sister are radically enhanced by the Manaroans—charismatic hippies who use their house as a crash pad on journeys to and from a commune in a remote corner of the Marlborough Sounds. Arriving by power of thumb, horseback and hooped canvas caravan, John of Saratoga, Eddie Fox, Jewels and company set about rearranging the lives and consciousness of the blasted family unit.

In the Time of the Manaroans brilliantly captures a largely unwritten historical culture, the Antipodean incarnation of the Back to the Land movement. Contrarian, idealistic, sexually opportunistic and self-mythologising too, this was a movement, as the narrator duly discovers, not conceived with adolescents in mind.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Weekly Goals 26-7-21

 I don't really have any goals again this week.

I looked at the garage and decided there's no way it's ever going to be enough space in there to fit what I need for my painting.  I guess I'm going to need to find a space somewhere else if I'm going to try this.  Or go to a class of some sort.  When I used to make jewelry, I did a class and then because I was part of the school, I could use the jewelry studio at other times when it wasn't being used.

Or maybe I should stop procrastinating and just write something new.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 23-7-21





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 that's always worth celebrating.


And this weekend I have very little planned at all, which is lovely. I do need to take my older son to do some barista training, but other than that, I'm pretty free.

I was hoping to get started with my new creative project, but it occurred to me, I don't actually have anywhere I can work.  The type of painting I want to do is messy and I can't do it inside the house.  Which means I need to make some space in the garage for a table of some sort.  And our garage is pretty full of bikes and other stuff.  Writing is actually a very compact creative pursuit, when you think about it.  Most others require a lot of space and equipment.  I'm maybe starting to re-think this whole thing.

What are you celebrating this week?


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Books I've Read: Pumpkin






This is the third book in Julie Murphy’s series featuring larger than life characters in a small town. Characters from the other two books pop up in this one, but never tear the spotlight away from our hero, Waylon.

Overweight and ginger-haired, Waylon is one of the only out and proud gay boys in his small Texas town. He’s just waiting for high school to be over so he and his twin sister can leave town for college and he can finally become the person he knows he’s meant to be.

But then he discovers his sister’s plans have changed right after he gets dumped by the guy he’s been having an elicit affair with and he starts spiralling out of control. On a whim he creates an audition video for his favourite television drag reality show, never expecting it to get into the hands of the entire student body.

But it does, and as a result, Waylon finds himself nominated as prom queen.

Rather than back away from the humiliation, Waylon and his sister’s girlfriend who has been nominated as prom king, decide to go through with it. Waylon knows he’s the biggest queen in school, so why not?

But who knew there was so much involved in becoming prom royalty? And when Waylon is paired up with the very cute and very masculine king nominee, Tucker, things might just go a little differently than planned…

This is a fun, frothy book very much like Murphy’s previous ones, Dumpling and Pudding. There are serious undertones, but for the most part, Waylon’s outrageous adventures will keep a smile on your face throughout. And how nice it is to see plus-sized characters who take charge of their lives and find their happiness without losing weight?

If you've enjoyed Murphy's other books, I can pretty much guarantee you'll enjoy this one.

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

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon, so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape accidentally getting shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Weekly Goals 19-7-21

 It's weird trying to write these weekly goal posts when I'm not writing.  What kind of goals do people have for their weeks when they're not trying to hit a word count or submit to agents or publishers?  Or maybe regular people don't have weekly goals?  I just don't know...  I've spent the last 15 years or so always working on something and focusing my goals around whatever the next step for that something might be.

I guess one of my goals this week is to actually buy the canvasses and paints I want to experiment with.  I don't have anywhere really to do this, so I'm going to try and make some space in the garage where it won't matter too much if I make a bit of a mess.  Because I will make a mess.  It's inevitable!

And that's about it, really.  Seems a little sad, to be honest, but I can't think of anything else I really want to achieve this week.

What are your goals this week?