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?