Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Insecure Writer's Support group


It's the beginning of December so it's time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group!

The awesome co-hosts for the December 1 posting of the IWSG arePJ Colando, Diane Burton, Louise – Fundy Blue, Natalie Aguirre, and Jacqui Murray!

And this month's question is a doozy!

 In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?

I think answering what delights me is easier than what stresses me, so I'm going to answer that one first.  I am delighted when I sit down to write and the words are just there and writing is easy.  There's nothing more satisfying than one of those days when the words just seem to be waiting to flow onto the page in the right order, with the right emotions and the story seems to almost be telling itself.

Another delight is going back to something I wrote some time ago and discovering it's actually good.  So often I've built these things up in my mind as something terrible that's going to need a ton of work to get right, so it's a delight to discover that, while not perfect, there are things to absolutely love about that piece.

I am also always delighted to hear from readers who truly get my work and love the stories and the characters as much as I do.  It makes the more difficult times so worthwhile and I cling to those moments whenever things get tough.

Writing stresses come in many forms.  Deadlines can be stressful, especially when they're tight and come at a time that's already busy with work and life.  But I've learned that most deadlines aren't as hard as you might and rather than get stressed about it, it's better to reach out to whoever the deadline is with early and let them know you might struggle to meet it.  Most of the time, deadlines can be moved, but you have to ask.

Getting stuck somewhere in a story can also be stressful.  That moment where you know something needs to happen, but you can't figure out what that thing is, what happens next.  I find that getting past this can involve something as simple as just leaving a not in the MS that there's something missing, and then moving on to another place in the story where I do know what needs to happen.  Often through writing beyond the sticky spot, I find exactly what needs to happen there. Sometimes though, I need to leave that project behind for a while, work on something else, maybe even something not writing-related, and that will help me un-stick myself.

Stress can also come from royalty reports - somehow I've never sold as many books as I'd like to have sold.

I'm sure that's just a handful of the things that stress and delight me about writing. It's something that gives me great joy and also makes me very miserable. One day I'll figure out how to make the joys the larger part of the process, but I'm not there yet.

What are the things about writing that delight or stress you out?

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Weekly Goals 29-11-21

 It's Monday again, so here goes with my weekly goals.

It's going to be a busy week at work because I'm having a little surgery next Monday which means I'll need a few days off to recover.  So I need to cram a lot of work into this week to make sure things won't fall apart while I'm away next week.  Plus we have an all-day workshop on Friday which means I actually only have a four-day week in the office to get all that stuff done.

I have my fingers crossed that the weather will be okay next weekend so I can get the deck stained and do some more artwork.  I have a pile of canvasses arriving this week that I ordered online, and a bunch of new paint colors I'm itching to try out.  Not to mention some new techniques I'd like to try too.

And that's about it for goals this week.  Not very exciting, I know...

What are your goals for the week?

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 26-11-21


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!

And it has been a very busy week at work so I am looking forward to the weekend.  The weather doesn't look like it's going to be fantastic, unfortunately, so once again I'm probably not going to be able to paint or stain the deck.  Beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to get that deck stained...

I managed to get a few quite big pieces of work off my plate this week which is good because the end of the year is looming and these things need to be done before we hit the Christmas break.  I think I have four more time-sensitive things I need to achieve before the end of the year, and a couple of things I really want to complete, but it's not the end of the world if I don't get through them.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Books I've Read: The Wonder Test


I read this over the weekend, in between films and household chores and really enjoyed it.

It's set in a small California town near San Francisco where everyone seems to be extraordinarily affluent.  Lina and her son Rory move there from New York following the death of Lina's husband and father.  Ostensibly there to clean out her father's house, Lina is actually trying to escape both her grief and her guilt over a mistake she made in her work as an FBI agent.

Everything seems idyllic at first.  The house is gorgeous, the neighbourhood quiet and safe and Rory's new school top-notch.  Although Lina does think it's odd how involved the community is with the school and fact the students are expected to do one single, all encompassing test - the Wonder Test.  Nothing about this test and the devotion of the community to it seems quite right to Lina and her well-honed investigative skills start prickling.

It's not long before Lina discovers that a student at the school went missing last year, only to be returned mysteriously just after test week.  Further investigation reveals that a similar thing happened the year before.  So when Rory's new girlfriend disappears, Lina recognises the link and dives headfirst into an investigation that will take her on a journey through the values of Silicone Valley's elite, the real estate market and the secret world of pony fetishists.

The details about Lina's work were fascinating and felt authentic although never having been an FBI agent, I don't know for sure.  The things she knew and did felt right though, even if that is because I've watched too many spy movies over the years...

This is a pacey read with enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages to find out what happens next.  I enjoyed the social commentary about these elite people and the way they live through the achievements of their children, not to mention the relationship between high test scores and increased real estate value.  Sometimes I have to wonder about peoples' priorities!

If you like a good thriller with authentic details and a bit of scathing social commentary, I'd recommend this one.

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

A widowed FBI agent grows suspicious of her son's new school in this thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage Pact.

Lina is on leave from her job in New York at the FBI in order to clean out her father's home in Silicon Valley. As though letting go of her father isn't hard enough, Lina has also recently lost her husband in a freak traffic accident. Still reeling, she and her teenage son Rory must make their way through this strange new town and the high school around which it all seems to revolve. Rory soon starts coming home with reports of the upcoming "Wonder Test," a general aptitude assessment that appears increasingly inane, and Lina is shaken out of her grief by a sense that something is amiss in Hillsborough.

When she discovers that a student disappeared last year and was found weeks later walking on a beach, shaved and traumatized, Lina can't help but be sucked into an impromptu investigation. Another kidnapping hits closer to home and reveals a sinister link between the Wonder Test and the rampant wealth of Silicon Valley's elite. A searing view of a culture that puts the wellbeing of children at risk for advancement and prestige, and a captivating story of the lengths a mother will go for her son, this is The Wonder Test.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Weekly Goals 22-11-21

 The film festival officially finished last night so that excitement is over for another year.  It was a good one, for sure.

I saw a bunch of great stuff over the weekend, starting with Shivababy which has to be one of the most anxiety inducing films I've seen in a long time.  It's a very simple premise - a young woman, just about to finish college, goes to a shiva with her parents.  It's full of old family friends and acquaintances, including her ex-girlfriend who her mother tells her not to talk to, the guy she's been banging for money on the side, his wife and daughter (who she didn't know existed until the moment they arrived) and various older women who want to either set her up with a future husband or someone who can give her a job.   Mainly with the very people she wants to avoid the most!

I also saw a documentary about the friendship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, all told in their own words through interviews and letters and diary entries.  Such talented writers!  And a fascinating and complicated friendship.

I also saw The Eyes of Tammy-Faye which is about tele-evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker.  Stunning performance from Jessica Chastain.  She's barely recognizable at times.  But what a horrible story.  Such greed.

Yesterday was a triple-header starting off with a classic 50's melodrama in the form of Douglas Sirk's Written on the Wind.  I've seen it before, but it was just as good as I remembered.  Rock Hudson being manly, Lauren Bacall being gorgeous and acerbic and lots of people with too much money behaving badly.

One Second was a beautiful Chinese film about film.  Set in the '60s it was about a man who escaped a forced about camp after receiving a letter telling him his daughter appears in a newsreel.  The lengths he goes to to see her in said newsreel are extraordinary and bring him into contact with a raft of fascinating characters.  Definitely one of my favorites!

Finally, I saw Titane which won the Palme d'or at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  What an audacious film! Part body horror, part commentary on the objectification of women and all twisted.  I can't claim to understand everything going on in there, but you have to give points for consistently making brave filmmaking choices.  I just wish I'd understood any one of the characters' motivations...

And that's it for another year.  Noe I need to focus on getting through to the end of the year at work and preparing for Christmas.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, November 19, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 19-11-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I'm still celebrating the film festival and enjoying immersing myself in the experience.

This week I've seen a very charming Belgian film called Playground.  It was about a six-year-old girl starting school and discovering the older brother she'd always idolised was not quite the hero she believed he was.  It is very cleverly shot so everything is seen through this child's eyes.  Adults are not seen above mid-chest height unless they are sitting or bent over to speak directly to a child.  Anything that is not relevant to this child is a blur in the background.  It's very clever and immersive and I enjoyed it very much.

The other film I've seen so far this week is called My Salinger Year and it's kind of literary Devil Wears Prada.  A young woman moves to New York to pursue a career as a writer and is hired as an assistant to a literary agent who represents J D Salinger.  The agent isn't nearly as scary or overbearing as the editor in the Devil Wears Prada - she's more stuck in the past and unwilling to move with the times.  She's played by Sigourney Weaver and manages to be both steely and vulnerable at the same time.  I didn't think this was a great film - it meandered a bit and lost focus on the core story often - but it was very charming and had some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments.  The main character was almost exactly the same age as i would have been in its 1995 setting, so I totally identified with her and the journey she was on.  God, she could have been me!

I have six more films to see over the weekend, so will report back on those on Monday.  Very much looking forward to re-seeing one of Douglas Sirk's sumptuous 1950s melodramas on Sunday morning!

What are you celebrating this week?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Happy Birthday Scavenger Hunt

My good friend Patricia Lynn has a new book out and it's her birthday!  On top of that, she's celebrating 10 years as a published author.  To celebrate, she's holding a scavenger hunt and I'm happy to be a part of it.

Read about Being Human below and find my unique scavenger hunt code word, then head to https://www.patriciajosephine.com/blog for the list of other participants. When you've collected at least five special words, you need to go back to Patricia's blog and comment on the post Happy Birthday AND Anniversary to be entered in the giveaway. 

Good luck! 

Tommy forgot his human life when he became a vampire...but it didn’t forget him.

Like all vampires, Tommy must do one thing: survive. With no memory of his life before death, his only connection to humanity is his twin brother. When Tommy rescues a young girl, he learns not all monsters are undead. After returning her to her family, Tommy struggles to understand why he felt so protective of her when she has no connection to him.

As the years pass, and with his twin’s help, Tommy moves on with his ‘life’ but never forgets the young girl or the monster who hurt her. When she re-enters his life as a teenager, Tommy struggles with his vampire need to survive and his desire to protect her. He will be forced to decide which part of him is stronger: The vampire? Or the human? The answer may destroy him.

Being Human is a coming of age young adult paranormal fantasy about finding one’s humanity, family bonds, and the power of love.

Add to Goodreads

Patricia Josephine aka Patricia Lynne
Author of paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi novels you can escape into.
◾ Website: patriciajosephine.com
◾Twitter: @pjlauthor
◾Facebook: @pjlauthor
◾Instagram: @pjlauthor
◾Patreon: @pjlauthor

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Weekly Goals 15-11-21

 It's the final week of the film festival so I'm not making any lofty goals.  Between work and trying to make it to all the films I want to see, that's enough.

So what films have I seen over the weekend?

Well, I saw a documentary called The Most Beautiful Boy in the World which is about the young boy in Visconti's Death in Venice.  He was a 15-year-old Swedish kid and being in that film changed his life, but not in a good way.  The documentary is basically about the way his life was ruined by being in the film.  I didn't love it, mainly because I didn't particularly like the subject and found it a little difficult to sympathize with him.

I also saw a delightful Norwegian film called Ninjababy.  It's about an unplanned pregnancy and the woman doesn't discover she's pregnant until almost 7 months.  This obviously sends her into something of a tailspin while she tries to figure out who the father could be and what she is supposed to do with a baby at this point in her life.  She wants to be a cartoonist so the film is partly animated as she works through these challenges.  I loved it.  It was hilarious, but also very real.  The characters spoke like real people speak and the emotions were very raw.

I also saw an Iranian film, A Hero by a director called Asgadar Faradhi.  I've loved all his earlier films, so jumped at a chance to see this one.  It was kind of a shaggy dog story with all kinds of wrong decisions being made.  I enjoyed it, but feel like I may have missed something really essential about it because I'm not Iranian and don't fully understand Iranian culture.  The whole film seemed to be about each character wanting to preserve their dignity or honor, but I never quite understood what that meant or why it was so important.

So that was my weekend.  I think I have another eight to see before it's all over.  Plus I managed to get a ticket to an encore screening of one of the ones I really wanted to see but couldn't fit into the schedule.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 12-11-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?

Still celebrating the film festival this week, and next week too.  I haven't been to a lot this week, but both the things I've seen have been good.

I saw Ted K the other night, in an almost empty theatre which was odd.  It's a portrait of the Unabomber that was shot on the land where he actually lived and uses his own words from the many, many pages of writing that was left behind in his cabin.  It was an interesting film that really took you into Ted's world.  Everything was seen through his eyes and his interactions with others were limited to telephone calls in which the other party was never seen or heard, or simple day-to-day transactions.  It was rather unsettling in many ways, even though I think they could have gone deeper and really revealed more about the forces that made this seemingly rational and clearly very intelligent person turn to domestic terrorism.

The other film I saw was a documentary about Poly Styrene, the punk feminist.  It was made by her daughter and in many ways, it was more about the daughter as she struggled to reconcile the public figure with the mother she knew. And it sounds like she was not really capable of being a great mother a lot of the time...

I have a bunch more to see this weekend which I am looking forward to.  I'm also hoping to be able to varnish some paintings, but the weather isn't looking that crash hot.  And the other thing I want to do this weekend is make canneloni for dinner when the whānau come on Sunday.

what are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Books I've Read: As If On Cue

This was a quick, fun read that I raced through in a single afternoon without a single regret.

Natalie and Reid have been rivals since they were kids and both started taking clarinet lessons with Natalie's music teacher father.  What started out being a way for Natalie to connect with her dad, became a fierce competition once Reid came on the scene.  By middle school, the competitiveness moved beyond just their playing and began wrecking havoc with both their lives.

Now, in their final year of high school, Natalie has given up playing the clarinet in favour of writing plays.  She has a new group of theatre friends and only sees Reid when he shows up for his clarinet lessons.  When the school's administration cancels all but one of the school's arts-based extra-curriculars as a means to save money, Natalie is devastated.  Her dreams are crushed, yet Reid's competition-winning band still gets to play.

To try and get to Reid, Natalie re-starts a years'-old prank war, but the pranks go beyond harmless and to atone for their sins, Reid and Natalie are forced to work together, to rewrite Natalie's play as a musical that will utilise the talents of both the theatre crew and the band.  With the two of them as co-directors.

With no idea how to get along with each other, let alone how to work together, it is inevitable that sparks fly.  Yet they are not the sparks either one of them might have expected and suddenly the pair find themselves trying to navigate new feelings for one another at the same time as they navigate the challenges of staging a musical that will sell out and save the arts programmes they both love so much.

As an ex-theatre and music kid myself, I loved the world of this book and the passion both characters had for their respective arts.  They are both driven and creative and the kid of kids you just know will succeed.  I have to say, I found Natalie a little much at times.  She was so single-minded and certain that her own point of view was the right one that she became quite unlikable at times.  And she does something toward the end of the book that is difficult to forgive her for.  

But despite my reservations about Natalie and her (lack of) personal growth and self-awareness, I still enjoyed this book.  It made me want to do theatre again.

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

A pair of fierce foes are forced to work together to save the arts at their school in this swoony YA enemies-to-lovers romance that fans of Jenny Han and Morgan Matson are sure to adore.

Lifelong rivals Natalie and Reid have never been on the same team. So when their school’s art budget faces cutbacks, of course Natalie finds herself up against her nemesis once more. She’s fighting to direct the school’s first ever student-written play, but for her small production to get funding, the school’s award-winning band will have to lose it. Reid’s band. And he’s got no intention of letting the show go on.

But when their rivalry turns into an all-out prank war that goes too far, Natalie and Reid have to face the music, resulting in the worst compromise: writing and directing a musical. Together. At least if they deliver a sold-out show, the school board will reconsider next year’s band and theater budget. Everyone could win.

Except Natalie and Reid.

Because after spending their entire lives in competition, they have absolutely no idea how to be co-anything. And they certainly don’t know how to deal with the feelings that are inexplicably, weirdly, definitely developing between them…

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Weekly Goals 8-11-21

 With my film festival schedule pretty full this week, I don't really have much in the way of goals other than to make it to all the films I've booked.

So far, it's been a pretty good festival.

I saw a documentary about The Pogues frontman, Shane McGowan which was excellent, if very sad.  The man is a wreck from drinking and can barely speak anymore.  

I went to the world premiere of local film Millie Lies Low which was great too.  I've read the script a few times for work, and it's always so nice to see a script you enjoyed come to life even better than it looked on the page.  I had such anxiety for poor Millie the whole way through the film!

Yesterday was a double feature with Mass first up.  It's a powerful film, but harrowing.  I cried for about the last third of it.  Stunning acting from all four lead actors.  The tensions was lessened a little by the fact there was an earthquake partway through which took my focus off the screen for a couple of minutes while I tried to figure out if the weird rattling sound was part of the soundtrack or something real.

I closed out the weekend with a classic Rainer Werner Fassbinder film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.  I've seen it before, but never on the big screen.  Marvellously melodramatic.  I remembered there being a really long opening scene in a bizarrely decorated bedroom, but I think must have forgotten that in fact the whole film is set in that room.  It's very theatrical, but once again, fabulous acting from all the women involved.

I have a night off tonight, then back into it tomorrow.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 5-11-21


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

What am I celebrating this week?

Film festival! 

It's late, it's not happening in Auckland or Hamilton, but it is happening in Wellington where I live, so I'm going to indulge big time.  Especially since last year's event was a bit of a fizzer because most of the films were online instead of in cinemas.

I was lucky enough to score a last-minute ticket to the opening night last night and got to see Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog.  Truly exceptional filmmaking.  I've read the book it's based on a couple of times, and I read the script when it came in for funding a couple of years back, but the film still surprised me.  It's so refreshing to see a film that doesn't telegraph everything before it happens.  So unusual these days!

I have four more films to see before Monday, including a wonderful classic which I've never seen on the big screen before.  Very excited for that one!  Will report back on everything I've seen on Monday...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Insecure Writers' Support Group - November


It's the first Wednesday of November so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts this month,  Kim Lajevardi, Victoria Marie Lees, Joylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery.

This moth's question is an interesting one:

What's harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?

Titles are the bane of my life, so I definitely find coming up with a title harder than writing a blurb.  I don't outline much, so I usually write the blurb for the book I think I'm going to write pretty early on.  Not usually before I start writing, but once I have a feel for my characters and the journey I think they might be taking.  Of course that often changes as I write which means the blurb also gets changed a few times along the way.

Titles are a whole other thing.  My books usually spend most of their genesis being called either by the MC's name (my hard drive is littered with files called "Chris" or "Liz and Vic") or some kind of loose description like "juvvielesbian" or "junkieballerina".  I usually find something better before I start sending out queries, but it's not always the title the book ends up with.

The one time I came up with a title early on was a book called "The Boyfriend Plague".  It's the only time I ever wrote a book to fit the title.  And by the time the book was finished and accepted by a publisher, the title no longer fit and ended up becoming An Unstill Life

My newest WIP has spent its whole genesis being called Juliet and Juliet because it started off being a lesbian re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, but kind of moved into something else as I wrote and revised.  And the two girls aren't both called Juliet... One of them is Iris.  But since I haven't come up with a better title yet (I'm thinking something along the lines of Guide Us,  but there's still so much revising that needs to be done, it might change again before I finish) it's just going to stay Juliet x 2 until I come up with something better.

What do you find harder? Blurbs or titles?