Sunday, February 28, 2021

Weekly Goals 1-3-21

 Can you believe it's March already?  Where the hell did February go?

This week's goals are pretty similar to the last couple of weeks I'm afraid.  Chasing the Taillights released on Friday, so I'm still on a big publicity and marketing buzz to try and generate sales.  

That will pretty much be over in another week, so I plan to dive back into my NaNo book then.  I haven't even looked at it since I typed 'the end', so it's been a good long rest period.

New Zealand has moved back into Alert Level 3 in Auckland and Alert Level 2 for the rest of the country again because one person in Auckland didn't do what he was supposed to do and isolate at home after having a test until a negative result came through.  Wouldn't you hate to be that person?  Imagine knowing it's your fault an entire city is in lockdown...  I hope they manage to keep his identity a secret because if not, his life is going to be hell.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 26, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things - New Release!


This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

My new book is out!

You can buy it at any of these places.  I think it's even on sale this weekend as a new release special!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Books I've Read: A Complicated Love Story Set in Space


I've always loved a title that tells you exactly what's in the box.  Snakes on a Plane, for example... Or A Complicated Love Story Set in Space.  And since I've been a big fan of Shaun David Hutchinson for ages, I just ad to pick this one up when I saw it on the library shelf.

Although to be honest, the love story isn't actually that much more complicated than any other love story - aren't they all?  What is complicated is the plot going on around the love story.  

The book opens with two teenage boys waking up on an abandoned spaceship.  Well, one on, and the other outside.  And all the information the ship is providing tells them it's about to blow up.  An exciting set up, right?

It quickly becomes clear that Noa and DJ (and Jenny, who they discover locked in a toilet) have no clue how they got there, or why.  It's also clear that keeping the dilapidated spaceship going will keep them busy enough, without the arrival of aliens, possibly murdered crew members and a bizarre school floating in the depths of space.

Great time to fall in love, right?  But Noa and DJ find themselves growing more and more attracted to one another.  So much so, Noa is almost able to overcome the terrible memories he has from his last relationship.

But of course, the reality of their situation is something very different to what they believe it is.  And this where things start to get really complicated.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was absurd, but there was enough reality to ground it and the characters reacted to their ridiculous dilemmas in exactly the way a bunch of relatively sheltered kids would when faced with something so bizarre and incomprehensible.

Definitely recommended.

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

Black Mirror meets What If It’s Us in this gripping, romantic, and wildly surprising novel about two boys lost in space trying to find their way home—while falling in love—from the critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants.

When Noa closes his eyes on Earth and wakes up on a spaceship called Qriosity just as it’s about to explode, he’s pretty sure things can’t get much weirder.

Boy is he wrong.

Trapped aboard Qriosity are also DJ and Jenny, neither of whom remember how they got onboard the ship. Together, the three face all the dangers of space, along with murder, aliens, a school dance, and one really, really bad day. But none of this can prepare Noa for the biggest challenge—falling in love. And as Noa’s feelings for DJ deepen, he has to contend not just with the challenges of the present, but also with his memories of the past.

However, nothing is what it seems on Qriosity, and the truth will upend all of their lives forever.

Love is complicated enough without also trying to stay alive.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Weekly Goals 22-2-21

 Only four days until Chasing the Taillights launches!

It's actually already available for pre-order at some e-booksellers, which surprised me.  

I got a second good review, which is good.  Fingers crossed a few more trickle in through the week.  It would be good to go out on release day with at least a few reviews behind it.

As for goals, it's much of the same.  Chasing review and promotional activities for Taillights, and querying Standing Too Close.  The new query does not seem to have made as much of a difference as I'd hoped, but it's early days yet.  There are still a few more things I could potentially tweak.

And that's pretty much it for goals.  Exciting, right?  What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 19-2-21

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

And it's only a week until Chasing the Taillights releases.  The first review came out today and it's a goodie!  Check it out here.  Fingers crossed there will be more like that coming.

It was my friend's birthday this week, and every year she and her partner host a massive barbeque to celebrate.  So I'm looking forward to heading over there tomorrow for some delicious food and fine company.  After a few days of terrible weather, things seem to have cleared up and it's gorgeous out today.  Hoping for more of the same tomorrow.

Feeling very grateful that the COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland last weekend doesn't seem to have spread.  Auckland spent 3 days in a Level 3 lockdown while the rest of us went back to Level 2 for the period, but yesterday we went back to Level 1.  

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Books I've Read: The Whole Town's Talking


I've always liked Fannie Flagg's books.  They're quirky and fun and usually set in small towns filled with characters.  The first of her books I read set in Elmwood Springs was Welcome to the World Baby Girl, which I loved.  Since then, I have read other books set in the town, telling the stories of the townsfolk and their adventures.  

This book goes through the history of Elmwood Springs, from its Swedish founder Lordor Nordstrom (great-grandfather to Dena Nordstrom, the protagonist in Welcome to the World Baby Girl) to the 21st century, showing how a town grows and changes, but some things - and families - remain.

It is a lively town, full of characters, many of whom will be familiar to those who have read Flagg's other books.  Who could forget the kooky, irrepressible Aunt Elner and her fig preserves?  Or Poor Tot, the terrible hairdresser whose clients continue going to her out of sympathy for her having to live with an alcoholic husband and two ungrateful, no-good kids?

This book follows all these characters and more as they are born, grow up and eventually die and are buried in Still Meadows, the town cemetery.  But death is not the end for those living in Elmwood Springs.  The cemetery is a hive of activity once the dead start gathering there, and they remain engaged in town life from the grave as each new arrival brings news of those left behind.

This is a fun, quick read, but is actually so much more than just that.  It is a portrait of a town and a community.  It's easy to imagine that there are hundreds or thousands more towns that would have a similar history with just as many intertwined stories and events to tell.  It's a portrait of change and growth, and then of decline as a once-thriving small town begins its decline as larger cities encroach with their malls and other opportunities.

I don't think you need to have read any of the other Elmwood Springs books to enjoy this one, but it's certainly and interesting companion piece, particularly in that this book does not even mention Neighbor Dorothy, the homespun radio personality who has been integral to most of Flagg's other Elmwood Springs books and is probably among its most famous residents.

So I'd recommend this book.  Even if you never read another of Flagg's Elmwood Springs books, this is a timeless portrait of a town and a lifestyle we may never see again.

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

Elmwood Springs, Missouri, is a small town like any other, but something strange is happening at the cemetery. Still Meadows, as it’s called, is anything but still. Original, profound, The Whole Town’s Talking, a novel in the tradition of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Flagg’s own Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride, Katrina, and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die, and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways.

Lordor Nordstrom created, in his wisdom, not only a lively town and a prosperous legacy for himself but also a beautiful final resting place for his family, friends, and neighbors yet to come. “Resting place” turns out to be a bit of a misnomer, however. Odd things begin to happen, and it starts the whole town talking.

With her wild imagination, great storytelling, and deep understanding of folly and the human heart, the beloved Fannie Flagg tells an unforgettable story of life, afterlife, and the remarkable goings-on of ordinary people. In The Whole Town’s Talking, she reminds us that community is vital, life is a gift, and love never dies.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Weekly Goals 15-2-21

 I'm afraid there isn't anything new to report this week.  I'm still working to get reviewers for Chasing the Taillights.  It's kind of a soul destroying process.  So much time researching the reviewers, finding their preferences and policies and contact details, then writing personalized (as much as possible) emails only to get nothing in reply.

Kind of like querying...

Which has been my other focus.  I sent out ten new queries last week, but so far have no idea if it's working better than my old query.  Not sure if I should wait and see what the response is to the new query before I send any more, or if I should just send out another batch.  I've been very disappointed by the response so far and am thinking it must be the query that isn't working because I know this is one of the best things I've written.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 12-2-21

This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

What is it about short weeks that make them feel so long?  Oh... Compressing five days' work into four days.  D'uh!

So looking forward to the weekend even though I have quite a bit of stuff to do.  More queries, more review requests, housework etc.

Not a lot to celebrate this week, to be honest.  No news good or bad to report...  So here.  Have a picture of my cat being cute...

Sorry to be so dull!

What about you?  Do you have something to celebrate this week?

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Books I've Loved: Stick

I've been a huge fan of Andrew Smith since I read Ghost Medicine, and I thought I'd read all his books.  So it was a surprise to discover this one I'd never heard of before.  So I quickly snapped it up for my Kindle and dove right in.

Stark (or Stick as he gets called because of his height) is fourteen and was born missing an ear.  Years of bullying about it have made him self-conscious about it so he rarely leaves the house without a hat.  His older brother Bosten does his best to protect Stick, but he can't be there all the time. And even if he can stave off the school bullies, there's no way he can keep Stick (and himself) safe from the abuse at home.

Luckily both Bosten and Stick have good friends with families who embrace them - Stick with Emily and Bosten with Paul 'Buck" Buckley.  But as they get older, the friendships turn into something more.  Stick discovers he likes kissing Emily and when her parents are out of the house, sharing a bath.

When Stick comes across Bosten and Paul kissing in the woods and realizes Bosten is gay, he knows this isn't going to go down well at home.  So he keeps Bosten's secret.  But Bosten's secret is exposed anyway, and the only way Bosten can stay safe is to leave home.

Unable to feel safe or whole without Bosten, Stick leaves too, unsure where Bosten is, but suspecting he may have gone to their aunt's, the one place they felt loved and accepted for who they are.  On the way Stick finds good people who genuinely seem to care about him and his well-being, and others who do terrible things.

Despite the challenges - some of them terrifying - Stick keeps going, certain that he'll find his brother and the safe, loving home he knows he deserves.

I loved this book.  Stick was such an endearing character and the relationship between him and Bosten was beautifully realized.  It was clear that the pair of them had stuck together through all kinds of indignities and horrors meted out by their parents.

The contrasts between their home with its rules and petty demands and the homes of their friends and most particularly their aunt were well drawn, and Stick's amazement as the differences felt very real.

There are some very obvious parallels between this book and my own Standing Too Close, so that may be why I responded so much to it (and hello, new comp title!)

But that aside, this is a powerfully emotional story with a spunky central character with a raw, real voice.  I definitely recommend it.

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

Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin) is bullied for being “deformed” – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend Stick. But the boys can’t defend one another from their abusive parents.

When Stick realizes Bosten is gay, he knows that to survive his father's anger, Bosten must leave home. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again. In his search, he will encounter good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. But he never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Weekly Goals 8-2-21

 My goals are going to be pretty much the same for the next few weeks, I'm afraid.  

I've sent out a bunch of review requests to bloggers and book reviewers and had a handful of people reply so far.  Fingers crossed a few more might get back to me this week.  I have another list of people to get in touch with, so that's going to be my focus this week.

I sent off a first batch of new queries on Saturday, so we'll see if this new query works better than the last one.  If not, then I will try re-writing it again, this time trying something halfway between the two versions I've tried so far.

And that's it for goals this week.

What do you want to achieve?

Friday, February 5, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 5-2-21


This post is part of Lexa Cain's blog hop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to sign up!

What am I celebrating this week?

Long weekend!

Yes, it's Waitangi Day tomorrow, and because it falls on a Saturday, the holiday is on Monday.  To make the long weekend, really long I took Friday off work too, so I have four days of weekend.

Not that I won't be working over those days.  I have already spend half my Friday reaching out to book reviewers and bloggers to see if I can get some reviews for Chasing the Taillights, and I foresee much of my Monday being spent the same way.

I had some help re-writing my query for Standing Too Close during the week, so I am going to send out a first, tentative batch of the new query this weekend too.  It's a much fuller synopsis of the book than my early query was, so it will be interesting to see if telling more story generates more interest.  Fingers crossed!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

IWSG - February

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

I really like this month's question!

Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

The short answer is yes.

I have so many friends I've met through blogging!  I've never met any of them in person, but some of them I feel as close to as any close friend.  In a way they're even more intimate than my close friends because I share my writing with some of these blogging friends. I have met some of my most trusted critique partners through blogging and bloggers are among the most valuable people I know when it comes to promoting and marketing new books.

I currently write for two blogs.  This one, which is my own, and Operation Awesome, a group blog for writers where I post once a week as agony aunt, Dear O'Abby.  Being part of a blogging team has been awesome (no pun intended) because the group are all writers at various stages of their careers and have a breadth of knowledge that can be shared among the group.

When I started writing seriously and started blogging, there seemed to be a lot more blogging activity.   There were a lot of competitions to enter which were always a good way to meet like-minded people, and a much larger community of blogging writers.  I guess as new platforms have been developed, people who once blogged have moved elsewhere, and as blogging is less in vogue, new writers are not necessarily starting blogs.  

Which is kind of a shame because I haven't found as supportive a writing community elsewhere. 

Have you made genuine friendships and connections through blogging?  Where else do you find like-minded writers to connect with?