Sunday, October 31, 2021

Weekly Goals 1-11-21

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

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

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

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

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 29-10-21

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

What am I celebrating this week?

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

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

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

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Books I've read: Thoughts and Prayers


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

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

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

And there were so many characters to keep straight!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this one early!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Weekly Goals 25-10-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 22-10-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?


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

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

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

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Weekly Goals 18-10-21

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 15-10-21

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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

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

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

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

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Books I've Read: A Town Called Solace


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Weekly Goals 11-10-21

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

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

Guess what everyone will be getting for Christmas this year?

And that's about it for goals this week.

What are your goals?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 8-10-21

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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the weekend!

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

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

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

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

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Insecure Writers Support Group October Edition


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Weekly Goals 4-10-21

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

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

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

What are your goals this week?