Thursday, April 29, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 30-4-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I've been terribly unproductive this week, so I don't feel like I have a whole lot to celebrate.  I haven't even touched Juliet and Juliet and while I feel guilty about it, it hasn't spurred me into doing any work on it.

What I'm going to say here is probably not going to be popular, but frankly, I think it needs to be said because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only writer out there who feels this way.

I'm discouraged.

I'm tired of spending time and energy writing and promoting books that generate fantastic reviews, but don't earn me enough money to even cover the cost of the promotions I pay for.  Or even to take a friend out for coffee.  I'm tired of querying agents and editors who either send form rejections or don't reply at all. I'm tired of spending as much time chasing reviewers and book bloggers to talk about my books than I do actually writing them.

I guess basically I'm tired...  I've written 17 novels and more short fiction than I can keep track of.  A lot of this writing doesn't deserve to see the light of day and I'm okay with that.  Some books and stories are just for me.  They were practice runs for the real thing.  But what do you do when you have the real thing?  The book you know is the best thing you've ever written, but no one wants to know about it?  

I think that's what's keeping me from working on Juliet and Juliet.  The certainty that I'll throw my heart and soul into another story for another year or more and still end up with nothing to show for it.  

I was always told that if you work hard, you'll get ahead.  Well, I've been working my ass off at this writing thing for over 15 years now, and I don't feel like I'm a whole lot further ahead than I was when I started.  I have more publishing credits behind me, but I'm starting to feel like those might be more of a millstone around my neck than an advantage.

I'm no closer to being able to give up my day job than I was.  I'm not even closer to being able to work part time instead of full time so I can write without having to get up before dawn to squeeze in a few thousand words.

I'm sure this discouragement will pass.  This is not the first time I've felt this way.  But right now, I'm really not feeling inspired to write or edit or query or submit.  

If you're feeling the same way, know you are not alone.

Sorry...  I know this is supposed to be a post celebrating the good things, small as they may be, but right now I just don't feel like celebrating.  Even the small things.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Books I've Read: Cool for the Summer


I'm a huge fan of Dahlia's, so when NetGalley gave me the chance to read this early, I jumped at it (thanks, NetGalley!)

Lara has had a crush on Chase ever since they started high school.  She's had eyes for no one else.  So when, on the first day of senior year, he talks to her and seems interested, she should be on Cloud 9.  All her dreams are finally coming true.

But that same day Jasmine shows up at her high school and basically ignores her.  Lara is confused.  She and Jasmine spent the summer together and what started as a tentative friendship quickly became something much, much more.

This book unfolds in two time periods, one following Lara and Jasmine's budding summer romance, and one in the present where Lara struggles to reconcile her feelings about Jasmine while also trying to enjoy having the boy she always wanted basically falling at her feet.

I really enjoyed this one.  It's light and fluffy and fun to read while having some real substance beneath the surface.  Lara's struggle to figure out her sexuality felt very real and is something many readers out there will have experienced and recognize.

I wish a little more time had been spent on building the Chase-Lara relationship though.  It seemed like he saw her in the hall and was instantly smitten.  Given they've been at school together for years already, and Lara's crush is no big secret, it felt a little too quick.  I get that she changed over the summer, had a haircut and became more confident, but it still seemed too quick.  I wished he'd taken a little time to figure out the changes were more than a superficial change of hair and a tan.

The other thing that bugged me, as it does in a lot of more recent books I've read, is the focus on having as many different types of people represented in the cast of characters as possible.  I totally agree that diversity is important, but unless a character's ethnicity or sexual preference is relevant to the story, I'm not sure that we really need to know these things about side characters who show up once or twice.  It starts feeling like box-ticking for diversity and that's really not the point.

Overall, I'd recommend this one.

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

Lara's had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He's tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he's talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe...flirting, even? No, wait, he's definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara's wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she's finally got the guy, why can't she stop thinking about the girl?

Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Weekly Goals 26-4-21

 My goals this week are pretty much the same as last week: get to work on Juliet & Juliet revisions.  I have not got far at all and this needs to be addressed.  I'm keeping it low key right now, but I'd like to get through another three or four chapters this week.

I haven't been good about it this weekend at all.  I spent Saturday pulling a small jungle of weeds up behind my house, and yesterday I was up the coast visiting a friend and then having dinner with my folks so didn't get a chance to even look at it.

We shall see how we go...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 23-4-21

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

What am I celebrating this week? 

A few things actually.  The first is I got probably the best review of my life for Chasing the Taillights.  It kind of made my week, really.  

The second is that it's a long weekend this weekend.  Sunday is Anzac Day and they have finally agreed to Monday-ize this holiday if it falls on a weekend, so Monday is a holiday.  Which is great news because this weekend looks like it's going to be really busy and having Monday off will give me some time to breathe and to do some work on Juliet & Juliet.

I have done a little more.  Just going through and adding to each character's inner monologue a little to try and clarify the way each of them see the world and themselves.  I changed direction with a plot element early on while writing, so trying to fill in the places where I removed that is proving a little challenging.

And that's about it from me.  

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Books I've Loved: Yolk

This is the third book I've read by Mary Choi, and she has a firm fan in me.  She writes complex, realistic characters whose problems and conflicts are the same as ones you and I might face on a day-to-day basis.

In Yolk, the main character is Jayne, a nineteen-year-old college student who is basically just stumbling through life.  She's studying fashion, but isn't really sure if that's what she wants.  She lives in an illegal hovel with a guy she was once involved with but now seems to only want her for a place to crash.  She's not really in contact with her family back in Texas, or with her older sister who lives a successful, glamorous life in New York.

And she has an eating disorder, but she doesn't really like to think about that too much.  She has it under control, right?

Then her sister shows up unexpectedly, wanting to talk.  June is everything Jayne isn't.  She's successful, put together, lives in a large and well-appointed apartment and has a high-powered job in finance.  Now she also has cancer and she needs Jayne's support.

Suddenly, after having barely spoken since high school, Jayne and June are living together.  With death staring them in the face, they are forced to rediscover their bond as sisters and both of them find it difficult to keep their secrets from each other while in such close proximity.

I really enjoyed this book.  The relationships were all complex and messy, even where there was love involved.  Jayne's perspective on life and herself is just skewed enough to keep you constantly on edge, never quite sure what she might do next.  She's unpredictable and impulsive and really not at all in control even though she wants those around her to believe she is.  

It's called YA, but the characters are older than they usually are in YA and the issues they are dealing with feel more mature.  If NA wasn't so tightly bound to romance, I'd call this NA, but although there are romantic moments in here, it isn't really about the romance.  That relationship is peripheral to June and Jayne's relationships and the sacrifices the two of them make for each other.

I'd definitely recommend this to people who enjoy books with complex, messy characters who live complex, messy lives.

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

From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Weekly Goals 19-4-21

 I managed to edit the first three chapters of Juliet & Juliet over the weekend, so I feel good about that.  I even started a fourth, but then my son wanted to use my computer and I had to stop working.


So this week's goal is to keep going, to try and get through another three or four chapters.  It's a long weekend, so I may even be able to get a few more done.  You never know...

What are your goals this week?

Friday, April 16, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 16-4-21


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 has been a crazy week at work this week, with all sorts of events and courses and training as well as the usual day-to-day stuff that just has to be done.  And as a result, I've been completely wiped out by the end of the day (if I even got home before 9pm) and haven't done any work on Juliet & Juliet.  I haven't even opened the file again.

So that will be a weekend job, along with all the other bits and pieces I need to get though this weekend.  And the good news is that next weekend is a long one because Monday is a public holiday.  I may even take the Tuesday off too, to make the most of it.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Books I've Loved: The Love Song of Ivy K Harlow

I was so excited to have won an ARC of this from Hannah that I started reading almost as soon as it hit my in-box.

This gloriously queer romance is so much more than it initially seems, and although it's a fairly quiet book in terms of the plot, there are so many complex character arcs it never feels quiet.

Andie and Ivy have been best friends forever. They've grown up together, come out together and lived through all of life's messiness and tragedy together. Now out of high school, they're both still trying to figure out what they want to do next. Neither went straight to college and still stuck in their small hometown of Providence, they're beginning to feel the need to move on to whatever is next.

Ivy scratches that itch by being the biggest in any room. She's unabashedly sexual and sleeps with anyone she wants to and when she's on the dance floor, she's the one no one can tear their eyes from.

Andie is more reserved. She goes with Ivy to the club, but mostly so she can make sure she gets home safely. Watching Ivy wrap herself around any woman she finds attractive hurts because Andie has been secretly (or maybe not so secretly) in love with Ivy for years. She lives with the constant hope that when Ivy is finally ready to settle down, it will be with her. She just has to wait.

Then Dot shows up on the scene and what looked like one of Ivy's usual one night stands becomes something else. Dot refuses to leave Ivy alone and the girl who doesn't do relationships starts looking very much like she is in a relationship.

I loved the way this book explored both the nature of romantic relationships and the way friendships, even lifelong ones, change over time. I didn't always like Ivy. She was often selfish and careless with peoples' feelings and I kind of hated that her friends all just accepted that about her. But I think we've all had that one friend that both made your life more exciting, and more confusing. The one you always swear you won't forgive again, yet end up doing so over and over.

The evolution of Dot and Ivy's relationship felt authentic and real through Andie's eyes and her own confusion and hurt was raw and painful to live through. She had support though, in her wider friend group and from parents who are just the right amount of supportive and involved.

I would definitely recommend this one, especially for those who like books that explore the complexities of female friendships and the way they grow and change once romantic relationships start forming.

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

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

She’s my best friend.

She’s the center of attention.

She is, without fail, the hottest girl in the room. Anytime. Anyplace.

She has freckles and dimples and bright green eyes, and with someone else’s energy she’d be adorable. But there is nothing cute about Ivy. She is ice and hot metal and electricity.

She is the girl who every lesbian wants, but she has never been with the same person twice. She’s one-of-a-kind but also predictable, so I will always be Andie, her best friend, never Andie, her girlfriend.

Then she meets Dot, and Ivy does something even I would have never guessed—she sees Dot another day. And another. And another.

Now my world is slowly going up in smoke, and no matter what I do, the flames grow higher. She lit that match without knowing who or what it would burn.

Ivy K. Harlowe is a lot of things.

But falling in love wasn’t supposed to be one of them…unless it was with me.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Weekly Goals 12-4-21

I finished reading through Juliet & Juliet over the weekend and while it needs a lot of work, it may not be quite as bad as I thought.  The last third or so of the book is actually pretty good.  I just need to work on the earlier part.

So my goal this week is to revise the first two or three chapters.  Which is going to be largely re-writing them, I think.  I think I'm going to need to re-write a lot of the first third or so of the book because the pacing is off and things happen too quickly to feel real.  Luckily my draft is only 63K, so I have about 20K to play with.

It's going to be a crazy week at work this week with courses, events and an all-day strategy session on Wednesday, so I'm keeping my writing goals small.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, April 9, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things - 9-4-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm almost finished my read through of Juliet & Juliet and I'm not as horrified by it as I thought I might be.  There is a lot of work to do, and I definitely need to add a little more up front to make the relationship develop more organically, but there are some good bits in there.  And for the first time, I feel like I actually managed to nail two quite distinct voices for my dual narrators.  There will need to be some tidying up on that, of course, but overall, I'm pleasantly surprised.

I was hoping to finish this weekend, but I'm not sure I will because it's going to be a very busy weekend.  But definitely early next week.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Insecure Writers Support Group 7-4-21


It's the first Wednesday in April so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group!  

This month's question is intriguing...

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

I'm not really sure if I'm a risk taker.  I don't really consider myself to be, but when I look back at my work, I wonder if maybe I am.  I certainly don't shy away from difficult and controversial subject matter in my stories.  I've never really considered that risky though.  I just like to write about parts of the world and society that may not have been fully examined before, especially not in YA.

But I guess tackling sex and disability in such a frank way in Stumped was risky. And writing about drug addiction the way I did in The Sidewalk's Regrets.  Or even euthanasia in An Unstill Life

In terms of style or POV, again I'm not sure if I am a risk taker.  I have a series of short stories about a family and their beach house where the POV character is never named or gendered.  Is that risky?  I like these stories because whoever is reading them can put themselves into the "I" character and read with their own experiences coloring the narrative.  Is that risky though?

Perhaps I don't quite understand the meaning of risk in this context...

What about you?  Do you take risks in your writing?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Weekly Goals 5-4-21

I had great plans to be productive this long weekend, but here we are on Monday, and I haven't done half the things I planned to do.

I did send out a handful more queries for Standing too Close. I have two versions of the query now and I'm experimenting with sending different versions depending on whether the agent asks for a synopsis as well because one version is more detailed than the other.  We shall see if that works any better, or if I need to start again from scratch with the whole query thing.

I haven't finished my read-through of Juliet & Juliet yet, so that's on the list of goals for this week.  So far there are parts I'm really happy with, and other parts that really don't work.  There is a ton of editing in my future...

And that's my main goal for the week.  To finish reading the MS so I have an idea what I'm working with. Then next week I can make a start on whipping it into shape.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

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

What am I celebrating this week?

Four-day weekend!

Yes, it's Easter and that means a lovely, lazy, luxurious four-day weekend.  As I write this, my hot-cross buns are rising and the delicious scent of spices is making my mouth water.  Both kids are going away with friends so it's just going to be my partner and I at home.  And the weather has been too wet for him to ride most of the week, so I expect he'll be off mountain biking every chance he has.

Which is just a roundabout way of saying I'm going to have the house to myself for most of the weekend.

I plan to read a lot.  Work on Juliet & Juliet.  Cook.  Go to the movies. Sleep.  Maybe even send out a new batch of queries.

The lovely Annie at Annie's Reading Tips is doing a giveaway this weekend and you can win a copy of whichever of my books (An Unstill Life, Stumped, The Sidewalk's Regrets) you like.  You can enter here.

What are you celebrating this week?