Sunday, January 30, 2022

Weekly Goals 31-1-22

 It's the end of January already?  How the heck did that happen?  I swear times moves faster than it used to.  It'll be Christmas again before I can blink.

This week my goal is to get Standing too Close off to the contest I'm going to enter it in.  I've done a few tweaks to the MS to try and make it fit the contest brief a little better and now I need to edit down my synopsis a little.  Then I'm sending it off.

I have also been sent a MS from one of my oldest friends to beta, so I'm going to get started on that.  She's always been a wonderful writer, so I'm looking forward to reading for her.

And with Omicron now pretty much everywhere, including in my city, I'm going to do my darnedest not to get exposed.  I feel like it's probably inevitable given the kids are going back to school this week, but I have my booster on Friday so fingers crossed I can keep it at bay until after that.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 28-2-22

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 to be honest, given the way the Omicron numbers are rising, this is likely the last weekend we'll be able to do the things we want to do.  So I'm going to go to a show tomorrow that we got tickets for at Christmas.  I figure it's probably the only one of the shows that will actually go ahead, so I'm going to go.  I might also go to the movies on Sunday, again because it's likely to be the last time I go for a few months.

So far there doesn't seem to be anyone in Wellington with Omicron, but you can guarantee it won't be long.  Especially since there seem to be a large number of people testing positive from a music festival that 8,000 people attended.

I don't think there will be another lockdown unless things spiral way out of control, but it is probably a good idea to limit the amount of time spent amongst strangers, right?

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Books I've Read: Mountain Runaways


As anyone who knows me will be aware, I love books about siblings and their relationships.  Especially siblings who are forced to face challenging situations without any adult input.  So when I saw this book on NetGalley, I thought it was probably right up my alley.

It follows three siblings after their parents die in an avalanche just outside their front door.  The entire family are extremely experienced outdoorsmen, the parents having run a survival school from the family home.

Rather than face the possibility of being separated in foster homes, or the youngest, Aron, who is largely non-verbal, being placed in a facility, the three kids flee into the wilderness.  They are confident they have enough of a plan and enough knowledge to survive until Jon, the eldest, turns 18, despite it being mid-winter and having the ability to carry only a limited amount of supplies.

As you would expect in an outdoor adventure story like this, the path is not smooth for the trio.  Shortly after they leave home, Aron becomes ill and they are forced to stop for several days while he recovers.  And then Korka, the middle sibling, sprains her ankle and they are forced to hole up for even longer while she heals.  Supplies become short and they would starve if not for Aron's sudden resourcefulness in hunting hares.  A resourcefulness that reveals they are not alone in the woods...

I enjoyed this book, but really wanted the characters to struggle more.  They argue, as siblings do, but it never gets much beyond petty bickering.  None of the three seem to grow much as people through their ordeal, nor do they ever seem to get scared - even when challenging wolves or wildcats for meat they have caught.  And despite the amount of time and resource the mountain rescue team must put into finding them, there is little in the way of consequences for them once they emerge back into civilization.

This is a quick, easy read that doesn't leave much on an emotional impact.  If you're into survival stories and books that take place in the wilderness, then this one might be for you!

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this early.

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

Will their wilderness skills be enough to survive the dangerous Rocky Mountains?

First an avalanche in the Canadian Rockies kills their parents. Then Children’s Services threatens to separate them. That’s when the three Gunnarsson kids decide to run away into the mountains and fend for themselves until the oldest turns eighteen and becomes their legal guardian. Not many would dare. But Jon, Korka, and Aron’s parents ran a survival school.

Turns out their plan is full of holes. When food and equipment go missing, and illness and injury strike, things get scary. They’re even less prepared for encounters with dangerous animals and a sketchy woods dweller on their journey. On top of that, grief, cold, hunger, and sibling infighting threaten to tear them apart, and the search parties are closing in on them. Do the feisty three really have what it takes to survive?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Weekly Goals 24-1-22

 Well, Omicron is here now, so we're back at the red traffic light.  It's not a lockdown yet, but if this thing spreads as quickly as they say it does, I don't imagine that's too far away.  For now, it's business as usual with  limits on the number of people that can be in any space at one time.

I knew getting tickets to shows for Christmas was a bad idea...  The first one is this weekend.  Not sure how the red traffic light will affect that.

At least schools aren't closing this time - the kids are due to go back next week after their summer vacation.  But they will need to wear masks at school.  

I'm still going to go into the office too because I can avoid public transport by riding my bike most days.  But again, I'm not sure how long it will be before they tell us we need to stay home.  I'm sorry for our Auckland colleagues.  They've only had about 24 days since their last red light ended.  Is this pandemic ever going end?

Dear Me 2022 edition

 Dear Me,

As usual, I’m late with this.  Each year I plan to do it before I go away on holiday, before the end of the previous year even.  Yet each year, it seems to get later and later before I start outlining my goals for the new year.  But I’m here now, so let’s think about what I might want to achieve in 2022.

2021 ended up being a weird year.  I wrote an entire novel in about six weeks toward the end of 2020, then spent all of 2021 procrastinating about editing it.  So here we are, in 2022, and it still needs to be edited.  I have taken a few looks at it, and there is a lot about the book I really like.  The last third is pretty darn good, in my opinion.  The beginning…. Less so.

So even if I don’t write a new book in 2022, I want to edit this one.  I feel like the best thing to do is to start from scratch with the beginning, maybe.  I think the first chapter is good, but I changed my mind early on about a key event I’d initially planned to have in there and the first few chapters referenced this.  And cutting that event out means the rest of the book doesn’t develop quite as organically as it should.  I’m hoping I still remember how to write a book since it’s been so long.

Remember when I was a pretty reliable two-book-a-year writer?

No.  Me neither.

Which leads me to my other goal – to not be down on myself for not writing.  I’ve spent much of the last year feeling guilty about not writing even though I didn’t feel like I had the energy, the capacity or even the desire to write.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I have wanted to write; I just haven’t had anything I wanted to write.  Maybe I’m just burned out.

 I have written a lot over the last 12 or so years and the publishing industry is not easy.  I have four completed novels sitting in my hard drive that I don’t know what to do with.  And that’s not including the one I still need to edit.  I think I worked out that I’ve written 14 or 15 novels all up.  I have published four.  Write off the four or five really dreadful ones I wrote early on, and there’s a lot of material there I should do something with. 

I’m planning to do some work on Standing Too Close so I can enter it into a contest.  I haven’t managed to get any agents interested in it, so I feel like this might be the last shot for this book I believe is the best I’ve ever written. 

But you never know.  Maybe it isn’t the best thing I’ve written.  Maybe I’m deluding myself.  Maybe I need to just write something else to see if I can write something better.

Or maybe I should just keep on painting instead.  I can see how I’m getting better at that.  There’s still a lot of room for improvement, but I enjoy it and I like seeing how many different things I can do.  I have several techniques I’d like to try and master, so I will continue working on it.  I may even start trying to sell some in the future.  Painting is something I can only do in the summer because I have to do it outdoors, so there is a limit to how much I can do.

Other than those creative pursuits, as always, I will try to keep up with my exercising and maybe even try to lose some weight.  It seems to get harder and harder, the older I get.  I remember when I couldn’t put enough weight on!  I was always turned away from giving blood because I was too thin.  Not a problem anymore, I tell you!

I also want to keep going to the movies as often as I can.  Once a week, if I can.

And that’s really it for goals.  I feel like this missive is a little depressing this year, but I think that may be a sign of the times.  There is so much uncertainty about everything at the moment and so little to look forward to.  No overseas travel.  No certainty around events.  I have tickets for a whole lot of shows in the next few months and the first has already been postponed (for the third time).  I think perhaps it was optimistic to give and receive tickets to stuff for Christmas this year…

Maybe trying to do a whole year at once is ambitious in these crazy times.  Maybe I should just look at six months.  Or even just 3?

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 21-1-22

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

What am I celebrating this week?

Look, I know I just got back from a holiday, but I'm still celebrating that it's a long weekend this weekend.  This first week back at work has felt LOOOOOOONNNNNGGG!  But I think the first week back after any holiday feels long.

Not that I have a huge amount planned for said long weekend.  Catching up with some friends on Saturday.  Having the family over for dinner on Sunday.  Maybe a movie...  And I just got a book from the library that I'm hanging out to read, so that will happen.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Books I've Loved: You'd Be Home Now


I have loved all Kathleen Glasgow's previous books, so I didn't hesitate in picking this one up at my favourite bookstore.

The book opens with a car crash involving Emory, her brother Joey and two of their friends.  Neither Emory or Joey are driving, but that doesn't stop both of them feeling guilt when one of the other passengers in the car is killed.

Four months later, Emory is still recovering from her injuries and Joey is coming home from rehab. Their parents lay down strict rules for Joey, demanding he follow the straight and narrow if he is going to continue to live under their roof.  Unfortunately they are too busy with their jobs to support him or even enforce the rules much.

They leave this to Emory.

Having always been the good kid, the stable one, the high-achiever, Emmy reluctantly steps into this role.  But Emmy has her own life, albeit a secret one.  Since before the accident she has been hooking up with the school baseball star, her next door neighbour, Gage.  Gage makes her feel good because Gage is the only one who really sees her.  Unfortunately, Gage wants to keep whatever is between them a secret.

As she struggles to balance all the demands on her life and her time, Emmy starts to wonder if she really is the person everyone seems to think she is.  Or if she even wants to be that person.  When things begin to spiral out of control and the different threads of her life start to tangle, Emmy has to become herself for the very first time.

This was an interesting book about drug addiction in that it's told entirely from Emmy's perspective.  This isn't the first book I've read that takes that path, but this viscerally evokes the damage addiction can have on families.  Joey's problems are so all-encompassing, take up so much of her parents' attention, there is little left for Emmy.  

Emmy and Joey's relationship is quite beautiful, even when things become strained and difficult between them.  The love they have for one another is something you don't often see in YA books where siblings tend to torment each other in increasingly cruel ways.  Perhaps this is because their parents' relationship seems totally dysfunctional.

This is a story about drug addiction from the perspective of a wealthy family that can afford to pay for specialised treatment and rehab, so is a very different experience to that people from less privileged backgrounds might go through.  But even so, it's not a pleasant journey or one I would wish on any of my own kids.

Highly recommend this one for all the feels.

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

From the New York Times bestselling author of Girl in Pieces comes a breathtaking story about a town, its tragedies, and the quiet beauty of everyday life.

For all of Emory's life she's been told who she is. In town she's the rich one--the great-great-granddaughter of the mill's founder. At school she's hot Maddie Ward's younger sister. And at home, she's the good one, her stoner older brother Joey's babysitter. Everything was turned on its head, though, when she and Joey were in the car accident that killed Candy MontClaire. The car accident that revealed just how bad Joey's drug habit was.

Four months later, Emmy's junior year is starting, Joey is home from rehab, and the entire town of Mill Haven is still reeling from the accident. Everyone's telling Emmy who she is, but so much has changed, how can she be the same person? Or was she ever that person at all?

Mill Haven wants everyone to live one story, but Emmy's beginning to see that people are more than they appear. Her brother, who might not be cured, the popular guy who lives next door, and most of all, many ghostie addicts who haunt the edges of the town. People spend so much time telling her who she is--it might be time to decide for herself.

Inspired by the American classic Our Town, You'd Be Home Now is Kathleen Glasgow's glorious modern story of a town and the secret lives people live there. And the story of a girl, figuring out life in all its pain and beauty and struggle and joy.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Weekly Goals 17-1-21

 It had to happen, but it's still a shock when it does: the holidays are over.

Yes, I head back to work today and am sitting here at my usual 5:30am writing slot for the first time since before Christmas.  You'd better believe that was difficult!  I've been sleeping until 8am most days over the holidays!  

So my goals for this week are pretty simple: get back into the working-week routine, write my goals for 2022 (which I am very aware I haven't done yet) and try to stay positive.  Oh, and to keep up the exercising.  I've done an insane amount over the holidays, so need to keep it up.

I had a lovely holiday with some long bush walks, swimming every day, lots of long, lazy afternoons reading on the deck, great food and wine and some bike riding. I even went salmon fishing!  I didn't catch anything, which is okay because I don't actually like fish.

What are your goals this week?

Wednesday, January 5, 2022


 It's that time of year when I head to the beach house, so this will be my last post until I get back.

Enjoy yourselves and keep yourself amused until I return...

Here's a peek at where I'm going to be while I'm gone.  This is the beach where I go swimming each day.  It's a bit of a walk from the house, but less crowded than the main beach.

See you here again in mid-January.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Insecure Writers Support Group January 2022

It's the first Wednesday in January so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group! The awesome co-hosts this month are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

This month's question is a tough one: What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

I'm not sure I actually regret anything about my writing career.  Sure, there are some thing s I wish I'd done differently, but if I had done that, I may not be at the point in my career I am now.  So I'm not sure I'd use a word as strong as regret to describe anything I've done so far.  

I kind of wish I'd held out longer before accepting my first small-press offer because my whole career might have played out differently if I had.  But you can't live on maybes and at the time it felt like the right decision.  By then I'd queried four or five books without getting an agent offer and was beginning to think I was never going to be published. So after doing my due diligence with the agents who had manuscripts of mine, I decided to go through with it so I could have a better understanding of the whole editing and publication process.

Of course, almost as soon as I signed that small-press contract, I ended up getting an agent with one of my other books, but that's a whole other story, one that did not have the happy ending I was hoping for, and I am once again without an agent.

And now, more than ten years later, I'm still a small press author, albeit with a different small press.  I continue to query new projects, but I have had even less interest in my newer titles than I did with the ones that are now published with said small press. 

So regrets? Not really.  Sure, I wish my books were available more widely, that anyone, anywhere could walk into a bookstore and see them on the shelves, that they would be in libraries across the world so the kids who need these stories could find them.  But they are out there and available and people (not many, but a few) read them.  

What are your biggest regrets about your writing career?

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Checking in on 2021's goals

At the beginning of each year I write myself a letter outlining the things I plan to achieve during the year.  Now that the year is over, it's time to check in and see how I did.  Original letter is in black; my comments on it in purple.

Dear Me,

Writing this annual letter outlining my goals for the year seems almost presumptuous given the shitshow 2020 turned out to be.  But it's human nature to live in hope, so I'm writing this in that spirit of hope, crossing my fingers that 2021 turns out to be a much better year.

So what do I hope to achieve in 2021?

I started querying Standing Too Close in October, albeit in a very slow, quiet way.  So far, no bites, so I will continue to query this widely.  I'm confident it's one of the best things I've written and I love the characters almost as much as my own children so I want this book to be seen and read widely.

I did keep querying.  I think I stopped at about 70 queries.  I had one full request which I withdrew when the agent who requested it turned out to be someone I didn't want to work with and one partial request which is still out there.  I'm not giving up on this one because I still believe it's among the best things I've written.  I'm going to do a little work on it and enter it into a competition.  The results won't be announced until September, so it's going to be a long process.  

I have a book coming out in March.  Chasing the Taillights was originally written about ten years ago, but has been rewritten several times since.  It's another story where I feel very close to the characters so I'm very glad other people are going to get the chance to meet Lucy and Tony.  I plan to throw everything I can at marketing this book in the hope it will generate some sales and possibly even boost sales of my other published books.  They need it!

I worked my ass off to get this book in front of reviewers etc, and it got some absolutely wonderful reviews (as all my books seem to), but it still isn't selling any better than my other books.  Which is disappointing, but not that surprising considering how limited my publisher's distribution is.

In February I plan to dig out the book I wrote during NaNo to start revising and editing it.  By then I'm hoping I've forgotten enough about it to look at it with fresh eyes and really see what needs to be done - other than the 700 things I left myself notes to fix later.  I'm hoping this will turn out to be good once it has been through some revision.

I started this, but never finished.  In the last week or so, since I've been on vacation, I've taken another look at this one and there are some really wonderful bits in it.  I'm hoping in 2022 I might reignite my passion for writing and actually do the work needed to make this one shine.

At some point in the year I want to write the other book I had in mind for NaNo.  A Stranger to Kindness is going to be a challenge for me, but the characters are living and growing in my head and eventually they're going to want to get out to play on the page.  It's going to be kind of a companion piece to Stumped in that Ozzy's little sister, Meg, is a character in this one.  Not exactly a main character, but an important one.  The main character is a boy who doesn't speak, and given how reliant I am on dialogue in my books, this is where the challenge lies...

Another one I didn't do.  I still love Harley and Wolfe and Meg, the main characters in this one, but I haven't quite figured out how their story plays out.  I have written notes, and Harley's voice is pretty clear to me, so again, this might be something I do in 2022.  It also might not...

So those are my main writing challenges for the year.  I'm hoping to be able to find other opportunities too, but as I don't know what they are yet, it's difficult to know how to plan for them other than to be open to things.

I didn't write much at all in 2021, for the first time in about 20 years.  I took up painting later in the year, which I really enjoy and find quite relaxing. I'm not great at it, but getting better each time I try it.  I hope I can find a way to balance both writing and painting as creative outlets in the year ahead.

I didn't hit my reading goal this year.  In retrospect, 160 books in a year was probably always going to be a stretch, but libraries closing over lockdown definitely didn't help.  I'm going to set a more realistic 145 book goal for 2021 and already have the first nine or ten lined up to read over the next ten days.  I can't wait!

I ended up setting my reading goal at 150 books for the year and I've missed it by 4, ending the year on 146 books read.  I read a lot more adult books this year which probably accounts for that since they tend to be both longer and more difficult to read than YA books.  I'm not disappointed by that total though, and I've read some things I really enjoyed.

Other goals for the year include continuing to exercise regularly and to go to the cinema as much as possible.  COVID-19 has made significant changes to the way films are being released and viewed, and as someone who has devoted much of her life to cinemas, I want to support them as much as possible.  I cannot imagine a world in which movies are not seen in theaters.  As much as I love the convenience of being able to watch what I want at home, nothing will replace the experience of sitting in a dark theatre with a community of strangers and sharing a story.

I have managed the exercise one, but my support of cinemas has been sporadic.  COVID disrupted the release schedule so much there was often nothing much on I wanted to see, and there were periods through the year when cinemas were closed.  I have been a lot more recently and will continue to go regularly as more films come out that I actually want to see.

And I think that's it...  What are your goals for the new year?

So, there we are.  I don't feel like I've achieved much during 2021, but at the same time, I feel like just getting through the year is an achievement in itself.  I'm not beating myself up about not writing more.  I know it's something I will get back to.  I just don't know exactly when it's going to be and I feel like forcing myself to do it when I'm not feeling it will not give me anything any good.  So I'll just wait and see when the bug bites me again.

How did you do with your 2021 goals?