Sunday, February 27, 2022

Weekly goals 28-2-22

 How is it the last day of February already?  Can someone tell me that?  I seriously did not get enough done in the last month!

But I feel like February is always a little like that.  It's only a couple of days shorter than a regular month, but somehow it seems to make a difference.

Anyway...  This week I intend to write something.  I don't know what, but something.  And I'm not talking about the newsletter and article I need to write for work.  I'm talking about something creative.  A story or even just a single scene from a story.  Something to get things flowing again.

I also want to orders some new canvasses so I can do some painting in the weekend.  It has been too long since I last had the chance to do something new and I have a few techiniques I still need to work on.  My balloon paintings haven't turned out the way I wanted them to and neither have my blow dryer ones.  More work is needed!

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

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 25-2-22

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!

I have nothing much planned for the weekend, but with the COVID cases skyrocketing and feral protestors all over town, I feel like staying home is probably the best idea anyway.  I have plenty of books to read, cooking to do and cleaning up that needs to be done.

I submitted a couple of stories to an anthology this week, so fingers crossed one of them might get selected.  They are quite different stories with very different voices and themes, so depending on what they are looking for, one of them might get through.

My mother seems much better and is at the beach house for a few more days.  Hopefully they will be coming back to the city next week.  Feels like a really long time since we saw them.

And that's about it from me this week.  What are you celebrating?

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Books I've read: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing


I wasn't really sure what to expect with this book, but I found myself really enjoying it for the most part.  Given it was published in 2018, it felt quite eerily prescient given the current climate and especially with  protestors currently occupying parliament in my hometown, all with different agendas and ideas borne out of mis-information spread via social media.

 The book opens with 20-something April May coming across an inexplicable giant robot on a New York street.  Initially she walks past it, noting that it's impressive, but writing it off as just another of those wonderful things about New York.  But on second thought, it's too impressive to dismiss so she calls her friend Andy and they make a video with it.

The next morning, April discovers her video has gone viral.  These sculptures, which April jokingly called Carl, have appeared in every major city in the world.  No one knows why the Carls are there, what they want, and who made them.  As the first person to document their arrival, April finds herself in an intense media spotlight.

Rather than downplaying her role in this discovery, April embraces the opportunity to make a mark on the world and throws herself into creating a persona suitable for this level of fame.  As the story becomes weirder and weirder, and the Carls seem to have selected her as their ambassador, April is forced to deal with the fallout being in the public eye has on her friendships, relationships and personal identity.

I loved how bonkers this book actually is.  The idea of the Carls, the puzzles April has to solve and the growing politics around whether these odd metal sculptures are benign or evil made for an exciting journey. The increasing division between groups of people who believe the Carls are good and those who believe they are evil felt very real, especially with the two sides playing out their differences on social media.  It felt very much like a parallel to the current vaccine debate, but given this was published pre-COVID, was probably based on the increasing division between Democrats and Republicans during Trump's term in office.

April is not always a nice person, but she admits this throughout the narrative.  It's easy to see how a young person, struggling to figure out her place in the world, might be seduced by the insta-fame these platforms offer and the sense of importance that can come from internet celebrity.  

So, while this book is certainly not perfect, it was a fun read and the ending left it open for a sequel so I expect we will see more from the Carls in the future.  And I'll probably read the next one too.

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

Roaming through New York City at three AM, twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Weekly Goals 21-2-22

 This week my goal is to submit a couple of short stories for an anthology.  It's free to submit until 1 March and after that it costs money, so there's impetus to do it now.  I have a policy of not paying to submit my work.  I get paid so little for writing, I can't afford to pay to play.

And that's about it for this week, in terms of goals.  Other than trying to avoid getting COVID, of course.  There's already been a case at the kids' school, but luckily neither of them were in the same classes as the kid.  But I don't suppose it will be too long before one or another of us is a close contact of someone and we all have to isolate.

Things to look forward to...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 18-2-22


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!

It's also one of my best friend's birthdays and she is having a barbeque at her house.  The weather isn't looking so crash hot, but it will still be fun.  Her partner has been cooking all week to get ready!

My mother has been very unwell and in hospital all week after an emergency surgery. She sounds much better today, thankfully.  I haven't seen her because she and my dad were still at the beach house when she fell ill so she is in the hospital in the South Island.  Hopefully she will get out of hospital soon.

And that's about it this week.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Books I've read: Again Again

This was a quirky, fun read about the various different ways any given moment could potentially play out.

Set over a single summer, the book follows Adelaide Buchwald over the course of a summer she is spending at the boarding school she attends during term time and where her father teaches.  She's spending the summer months taking care of faculty dogs while their owners are on vacation and recovering from a broken heart and a family tragedy which has left her family literally and physically torn apart.

When she meets Jack, she thinks he might be a distraction from the break-up she's still hurting from.  As the summer unfolds, so do a variety of different possibilities, each springing from a real-life event, and offering a different scenario.  In some, Jack and Adelaide fall in love; in others he's less interested and in others, he has a girlfriend already.

As Adelaide lives each reality in turn, she learns about love and possibility and starts to piece together the fragments of her shattered life.

I enjoyed this one.  I like the idea that there are a multitude of different ways any moment might unfold and exploring the ways these different scenarios can change the future.  When I started reading, I thought the various different possibilities might be confusing, but it was easy to follow what was really happening and what the alternative realities were.

I liked Adelaide as a character too, and really appreciated that what her family's problem is was revealed slowly.  I had assumed something very different, so when it was revealed, it surprised me.

So I'd recommend this one.  It's a quick, easy read, but has a little more substance and thought-provoking content than some.

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

From the New York Times bestselling author of We Were Liars and Genuine Fraud comes a complex novel about acceptance, forgiveness, self-discovery, and possibility, as a teenage girl attempts to regain some sense of normalcy in her life after a family crisis and a broken heart.
If you could live your life again, what would you do differently?

After a near-fatal family catastrophe and an unexpected romantic upheaval, Adelaide Buchwald finds herself catapulted into a summer of wild possibility, during which she will fall in and out of love a thousand times—while finally confronting the secrets she keeps, her ideas about love, and the weird grandiosity of the human mind.

A raw, funny story that will surprise you over and over, Again Again gives us an indelible heroine grappling with the terrible and wonderful problem of loving other people.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Weekly Goals 14-2-22

 I have quite a busy week ahead of me this week in terms of stuff happening outside of work.  Keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes ahead as planned because the COVID case numbers have risen sharply over the weekend as they predicted they would.

I finished my beta read and sent notes, so am now free to work on my own stuff again, if I feel so inclined.  I don't think this week is going to be the week I start anything new, but you never know...

And that's it from me.  What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 11-2-22


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!

Despite being a short week because of the holiday on Monday, it has felt LOOOONNG.  So I'm looking forward to a couple of days off.  I still have to finish my beta reading notes, so that's on the agenda, and the COVID numbers are still low enough in Wellington that I feel safe to go to the movies again.  Looking forward to seeing Red Rocket tomorrow.

The weather looks set to be crap for the foreseeable future, so indoor activities seem to be in order.  Luckily I still have a pile of books to read - somehow I've been really slow to get through books the last couple of weeks.  Not at all like me!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Books I've Read: All These Beautiful Strangers


I know you're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I have to admit that it was the cover that drew me to this one.  

Set in an exclusive boarding school, this is an unusual YA mystery in that it is told from multiple points of view, across multiple timelines and some of the narrators are adults rather than teenagers.  Seventeen-year-old Charlie Calloway's mother disappeared when she was seven and nothing has been the same since.  She has never wanted for anything in terms of material comforts, but her father is remote and her mother's family have long suspected him of playing a role in the disappearance.

When Charlie is invited to join her school's exclusive secret society, she thinks it might be an opportunity to throw herself into something worthwhile that might take her mind off her mother and the hurt she still deals with on a daily basis.

But the initiation rituals the 'A's require put her into increasingly perilous positions amongst her peers, friends and the school faculty.  And when the past and the present start to converge, Charlie is forced to face the truth about her dark legacy and make choices that might just change her life forever.

I enjoyed this book, but I found Charlie to be a difficult character to warm to.  I find these privileged kids at private schools hard to swallow and their self-centeredness always bugs me.  Charlie uses the people around her to her own gain, never thinking about the toll that might take on them.  She is often cold and cruel to people who try to help her, and she seems surprised when she's called out on it.

But I enjoyed the multiple perspectives and time-frames and seeing the development of  the relationship grow between Charlie's young parents in the years before she was born.

If you enjoy complex, layered family mysteries, this just might be the book for you!

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

In the last day of summer, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Allister Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New England school she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Weekly Goals 7-2-22

 I have almost finished my beta read for my friend, so my main goal this week is to finish that and get some notes written up for her.

I also have some book reviews to write, so I plan to get onto that too.

Otherwise, my week is looking pretty clear so far.  I may try to write some flash fiction, just to try and get back into the swing of writing again.  I feel like it may be time to do that.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, February 4, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 4-2-22


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 even better, it's a long weekend!

Unfortunately, it's also pouring rain and the forecast says it's going to keep pouring rain for most of the holiday weekend.  Guess I'll get time to catch up on that beta reading I need to do...

The expected explosion of Omicron cases hasn't happened yet, so I feel like we might have another weekend in which it's okay to go out and do things in public without worrying too much.  I'll try to go to the movies on Monday.  

The Arts Festival has been cancelled (as I suspected it would be), so all the tickets I got for Christmas are now useless.  I knew planning in advance was foolish, but yet I was still somewhat optimistic.  Fingers crossed we can get through the worst of this before May when my son and I both have tickets to things.

And that's it from me this week.  What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Insecure Writer's Support Group.

 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 February 2 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jacqui Murray, Sandra Cox, and Lee Lowery!

This month's question is: 

Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn't around anymore? Anyone you miss?

There is someone who had a huge influence on my writing who isn't around anymore: Lexa Cain.  I met Lexa (this was just one of her pennames) through not long after I first joined the site.  We were in a number of the same groups on the site and just kind of gravitated toward each other even though we wrote wildly different stuff.  Lexa was a fantastic horror writer and had a real eye for the grotesque. 

She was smart and often hilarious.  She had a wicked way with words and always called me out if I was being lazy or if my characters did anything she felt was not right for them.  She was a meticulous plotter and always knew exactly what was coming next in her stories.  And it showed! Every chapter finished on a cliff hanger, forcing you to read on.

She was also the best critique partner I ever had.  She could be brutal, but my books are so much better for it.  I don't feel like anything I've written since she dropped off the scene has been as good, and nobody else has pushed me to be as daring or as prolific as she did.  

I never met Lexa in person - she lived in Egypt and I live in New Zealand - but she genuinely was my best friend for several years.  Barely a day went by when we weren't in contact.  We cheered each other on as we struggled toward publication, commiserated over rejections and celebrated every small success along the way.  We talked about everything, but only online.  We never even did a Skype call!  The only time I ever heard her voice was when she sent me some demos of songs she'd recorded (she used to be an entertainer in resorts in Egypt).

I don't know what happened to Lexa.  I know she fell on some hard times after her husband died suddenly.  I know she had some serious health issues of her own.  I can only guess that she succumbed to them but I have no way to contact anyone in her family so I can't be sure.  I just know that she disappeared from my online life and has never reappeared.  No one has ever replied on any of her email addresses and I never found an obituary notice in her real name that sounded like the woman I knew.

I miss Lexa, both as a critique partner and as a friend. Every writer deserves a critique partner like Lexa - someone who can be both your fiercest champion and your harshest critic.  And everyone deserves a friend who can buck you up whenever life feels hopeless.

Do you have someone you miss from your writing life?