Thursday, March 31, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 1-4-22


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

What am I celebrating this week?

It's Friday and that means the weekend is just a few hours away.  And daylight savings ends on Sunday morning, so I get an extra hour to sleep in!   Which is very much needed right now.  I'm feeling absolutely exhausted.  I think the fact I only got about three hours' sleep last night is catching up with me...

I don't have any major plans for the weekend although I have been tasked with writing a 1000-word obituary/life story for my father-in-law  to be published in the newspaper.  So I will get onto that.  Trying to condense a 93-year life into so few words is going to be challenging, especially since Peter was accomplished in a number of areas.

I'm going to try out a new class at a new gym on Saturday, so we shall see if I like it.  My friend went last weekend and said it was great (and it's at 8:30 in the morning which is a much better time than the 10:30 class I've been going to...) so we shall see.

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

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Books I've Read: Enchantee


I seem to have been reading a lot more historical fiction recently and this book continued the trend.

Set during the French Revolution, Enchantee blends history and fantasy to create a world in which magic exists and can be used, but not in any big ways.  Magic here is ordinary, everyday magic.  the MC Camille can only do small things like convincing a shopkeeper that the rusty nail she uses to pay for her bread is in fact a coin.  But magic draws on sorrow and takes a toll on her.  If she is going to get out from under her drunkard brother's thumb and keep what little money she has left from being gambled away, she needs to do something bigger. When she discovers she can create the same kind of illusions with playing cards, she decides to use the skill to gamble her way out of trouble.

The problem is, the rich pickings aren't at the local gambling halls but at the glittering palace of Versailles and unless she is a noblewoman, she will never get in.  She disobeys her dead mother and unlocks the dark magic she hit away in a charred trunk.  It works better than she expected and she is soon comfortable rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy in Versailles.  And the gambling is intoxicating, even as she fails to heed the warnings of two others who possess the same ordinary magic.

As Camille becomes deeper entrenched with the aristocracy, she struggles to reconcile her new friendships with the ideals of liberty and democracy she has always believed in.  Things are further complicated when the attractive young inventor with whom she has struck up a friendship shows up at Versailles and is known by and well-liked by her aristocratic friends.

As the revolutions grows ever nearer and the streets of Paris grow loud with calls for the overthrow of the monarchy, Camille must decide which secrets she needs to keep, and which she can afford to let go.

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I was expecting to.  The blending of magic and reality worked well and I never found myself disbelieving the situations Camille found herself in.  The supporting characters could be drawn better and have more distinct personalities, but as they flit in and out of the story intermittently, it does not really detract from the enjoyment.

If you like mildly fantastic stories grounded in historical reality, this one just might be fore you.

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

Paris is a labryinth of twisted streets filled with beggars and thieves, revolutionaries and magicians. Camille Durbonne is one of them. She wishes she weren’t...

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille must find a way to provide for her younger sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on magic, Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille pursues a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Using dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into a baroness and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for magic. As she struggles to reconcile her resentment of the rich with the allure of glamour and excess, Camille meets a handsome younge inventor, and begins to believe that love and liberty may both be possible.

But magic has its costs, and soon Camille loses control of her secrets. And when revolution erupts, Camille must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, reality of magic—before Paris burns.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Weekly Goals 28-3-22

 I didn't get as much reading through old MSs done as I wanted to last week, so this week I will continue along that path.  I have a ridiculous number of them sitting in my hard-drive, mostly or actually finished.  

Although not completely finished because there's something a little bit off about all of them and I can't put my finger on what it is in each that doesn't quite jibe.  Which is wha this exercise is about.  In some cases it's a lot of years since I wrote these books, so I'm hoping that the perspective will help me figure out the problems.

So that's me for the week.  What are your goals for this week?

Friday, March 25, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 25 -3-22


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

What am I celebrating this week?

My father-in-law (or out-law as we often called him because my partner and I aren't married) passed away last week, so this week has been all about arranging his funeral and letting people who needed to know, know.  It has been a strange time because while it's sad that he is gone, he was 93 years old which is a pretty impressive run.  And until three weeks ago, he was living alone at his family home, still driving himself to the shops and basically independent.

When he was told this was not going to be the case any longer, that he wouldn't be able to live independently any longer, I think he decided that wasn't what he wanted, and he slipped away.  It was quick and I believe relatively painless.  The only really sad thing about it all was because of COVID restrictions, we couldn't see him before he passed.

So this week I am celebrating Peter's long life.  And his outlandish organisational skills which have meant organising his funeral has been pretty simple - the man left instructions and notes for everything!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 22, 2022


This was a total mind-bender of a book.

Set in a dystopian future in which much of the population has been wiped out by a plague of giant mutated bees and a flu-like disease they spread, the book follows several groups of survivors each of whom has their own way of manging this brutal new world.

So far, so much like other dystopia-set novels,

But threaded through the narrative about these groups and their decisions to hit the road and leave the places they have been sheltering are passages from an enigmatic character known as The Deliverer. The Deliverer has lived many lives and keeps them documented in a series of books that are referred to often as they try to piece the world back together.

When the groups meet and discover they each have similar purposes and stories about the past, the nature of time and mortality take on a whole new meaning.

I can't give away too much of the story without ruining the various twists and surprises this book throws up.  All I can say is that the story does not play out in an expected way.  A weird kind of mysticism or magic threads through the storyline, never moving it into the realm of fantasy, but just skirting the edges of it.

I love books that make me think and leave me scratching my head when I have finished reading, and this is one of those books.  It's odd and eerie and in this current pandemic climate, strangely prescient.  If you enjoy books that are unsettling and keep you thinking until the very last page, I would definitely recommend.

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

When a deadly Fly Flu sweeps the globe, it leaves a shell of the world that once was. Among the survivors are eighteen-year-old Nico and her dog, on a voyage devised by Nico's father to find a mythical portal; a young artist named Kit, raised in an old abandoned cinema; and the enigmatic Deliverer, who lives Life after Life in an attempt to put the world back together. As swarms of infected Flies roam the earth, these few survivors navigate the woods of post-apocalyptic New England, meeting others along the way, each on their own quest to find life and love in a world gone dark. The Electric Kingdom is a sweeping exploration of art, storytelling, eternal life, and above all, a testament to the notion that even in an exterminated world, one person might find beauty in another.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Weekly Goals 21-3-22

 I'm still working through reading all my "finished" MSs.  I sent one into a contest in the hope of getting some professional editorial help, so we shall see what happens there.  I love that book, but there has always been something not quite right about it and I can't figure out what it is.

So the goal this week is to read through another and make some decisions about what to do about that one.

And the usual stuff...  Get through the week at work.  Not get COVID.

What are your goals this week? 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 18-3-22


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 been a pretty crazy week, so I am glad to have a couple of days off.

So far none of my family have succumbed to COVID. I'm surprised given none of us are doing a lot to keep from it.  We're not being stupid, of course, but none of us are putting our lives on hold just in case.  Which I believe a lot of people are.  There are very few people around in town and traffic has been virtually non-existent.  Long may it continue!

I've been (slowly) reading through a bunch of the finished MSs on my hard drive, trying to figure out what I need to do to get these books publication-ready.  I figure there is no point in just sitting on them if there are only minor bits of work that need to be done. 

And that's about it for celebrating this week.  There just doesn't feel like there is a lot to celebrate at the moment.  

What do you have to celebrate these days?

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Books I've Read: The Jasmine Project


This was a fun, breezy read and very welcome after the raft of quite heavy books I've been reading recently.

Jasmine is just finishing high school and preparing to move into an apartment with her boyfriend of four years before they both head to college in their hometown.  No one else in her large, extended family or her close-knit group of friends is excited about her future - they all think she should be aiming higher than a life with Paul and a safe career nursing like her mom.

When Jasmine discovers Paul has been cheating on her, the stable future she was expecting is thrown into disarray.  Her family see this as an opportunity and set up an elaborate dating competition to try and show Jasmine she can aim higher than Paul.  Starting at her graduation party, Jasmine will be introduced to three eligible bachelors selected by various family members.  By the end of the summer, she should have chosen one to be her happy ever after.

As the family members bet on which bachelor Jasmine will choose, the bachelors themselves go rogue and Paul discovers he actually wants her back, it becomes clear that the Jasmine Project will not go as smoothly as planned!

I enjoyed this fast-paced romantic comedy.  Jasmine's large, multi-cultural extended family were hilarious and being privy to their bickering group chats was a real treat.  I also really enjoyed Jasmine's love of cooking and that one of her suitors was the son of a fine-dining chef.  As someone who worked in kitchens for many years, I always appreciate it when a book gets it right.

This isn't a weighty book by any stretch of the imagination, so if you're after something light and frothy and romantic, this one might just be for you.

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

Jenny Han meets The Bachelorette in this effervescent romantic comedy about a teen Korean American adoptee who unwittingly finds herself at the center of a competition for her heart, as orchestrated by her overbearing, loving family.

Jasmine Yap’s life is great. Well, it’s okay. She’s about to move in with her long-time boyfriend, Paul, before starting a nursing program at community college—all of which she mostly wants. But her stable world is turned upside down when she catches Paul cheating. To her giant, overprotective family, Paul’s loss is their golden ticket to showing Jasmine that she deserves much more. The only problem is, Jasmine refuses to meet anyone new.

But…what if the family set up a situation where she wouldn’t have to know? A secret Jasmine Project.

The plan is simple: use Jasmine’s graduation party as an opportunity for her to meet the most eligible teen bachelors in Orlando. There’s no pressure for Jasmine to choose anyone, of course, but the family hopes their meticulously curated choices will show Jasmine how she should be treated. And maybe one will win her heart.

But with the family fighting for their favorites, bachelors going rogue, and Paul wanting her back, the Jasmine Project may not end in love but total, heartbreaking disaster.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Weekly Goals 14-3-22

 I achieved my goals for last week and completed the beta read I was doing.  So this week I want to try and write something myself.  Or edit something.  I'm going to take a look at all the stuff sitting in my hard drive waiting to be polished and sent out somewhere and pick something to work on for the next few weeks.

I also have a bunch of blog posts to write for the A -Z challenge in April (I'll be doing this with Operation Awesome, not here) so I will make a start on those.

And that's about it for goals this week.

What are you aiming to achieve?

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 11-3-22


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 I still don't have COVID!  If that's not something to celebrate, I'm not sure what is...  No one else in my house has got it yet either, which is pretty fantastic.

I don't have much planned for the weekend, other than trying to finish my beta read and doing the regular weekend chores.  I like that a lot because this week has been quite insane at work and I feel like I need a break.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Books I've read: Breathe


This was a really odd book and one I've continued to think about since I finished it on Sunday.

It starts off in a pretty straightforward manner, with a woman caring for her dying husband.  The couple are far from home, having recently moved to New Mexico for the husband's work.  As the days go by and it becomes increasingly clear that Gerard will not recover, Michaela realises how much she loves her husband and how much her life is tied to his.  But love isn't enough to save a life and Michaela isn't sure she can continue to live without him.

This part of the book was gorgeously written and really evoked the pain and suffering of someone helpless to do anything as the love of their life fades away.  I commented to my partner at one point that it was depressing, but the writing was so gorgeous, I couldn't stop reading.

Inevitably Gerard dies and Michaela is forced to face life as a widow.  At just 37, she has a lot of years ahead of her, but locked in despair and grief, Michaela's head is filled only with thoughts of joining Gerard in the afterlife.

As we follow Michaela through these grief-filled months, things become more and more unsettling.  She is convinced she sees Gerard all over the place, even when the men she's looking at bear no resemblance to him.  She does bizarre things that seem entirely out of character for someone who previously seemed fairly rational and pragmatic.

And the further toward the end of the book I got, the less certain I was that Michaela was actually experiencing these things.  Was the entire book a demented fever dream?  Was it reality and Michaela is going slowly mad with grief?  Or is the truth somewhere in between these two scenarios?  I'm still not sure.  There are hints in the pages between chapters, but nothing is brought clearly into focus.

I love books that leave an aftertaste like this, even when I'm not sure I actually enjoyed the book that much while I was reading.  If something keeps resonating with me days after I finished reading it, there must have been something to it that captured my imagination...

So I would recommend this one.  Just maybe not for people who like everything to be nicely wrapped up at the end of a story.  This one is definitely wide open to interpretation.

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

Amid a starkly beautiful but uncanny landscape in New Mexico, a married couple from Cambridge, MA takes residency at a distinguished academic institute. When the husband is stricken with a mysterious illness, misdiagnosed at first, their lives are uprooted and husband and wife each embarks upon a nightmare journey. At thirty-seven, Michaela faces the terrifying prospect of widowhood - and the loss of Gerard, whose identity has greatly shaped her own.

In vividly depicted scenes of escalating suspense, Michaela cares desperately for Gerard in his final days as she comes to realize that her love for her husband, however fierce and selfless, is not enough to save him and that his death is beyond her comprehension. A love that refuses to be surrendered at death—is this the blessing of a unique married love, or a curse that must be exorcized?

Part intimately detailed love story, part horror story rooted in real life, BREATHE is an exploration of hauntedness rooted in the domesticity of marital love, as well as our determination both to be faithful to the beloved and to survive the trauma of loss.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Weekly Goals 7-3-22

Goals huh?  Well, I guess my biggest goal this week is to try and keep from getting COVID.  People around me keep getting it, so I feel like it's only a matter of time.  I could stop going into work and work from home, but I hate that so I'm going to keep going to the office as long as I can.  I feel like it's pretty inevitable that one of the kids will bring it home from school, given the number of teachers and kids who seem to be getting it.

My other goal is to finish the beta read I'm doing.  I got almost half-way over the weekend, so I figure I can get it finished before this time next week.

And that's about it.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, March 4, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 4-3-22


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 unlike so many other people here, I don't have COVID (yet).  Plus, the protests at Parliament have been cleared out.

It's been a crazy week really.  I don't work at the Parliament end of town, but Wellington is so small, it didn't matter.  When the police started breaking up the protest on Wednesday, we were certainly aware of it.  A police helicopter hovered over the site and flew in loops around the area all afternoon.  It was noisy and unsettling.

And watching the protest get cleared out was unsettling too.  Our Parliament grounds are open to the public and watching these feral people burning the kids' playground equipment and set fire to the beautiful old trees that I used to eat lunch under every day when I was at high school was pretty disturbing.  This entire protest has felt alien and wrong - this is not the way we do things in New Zealand.  And the violence at the end, that really din't feel like New Zealand.

But they're gone now, so I'm celebrating that, even if I think this is far from over.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Insecure Writers Support Group March 2022

 It's the first Wednesday in March so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group!

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the March 2 posting of the IWSG, Janet Alcorn, Pat Garcia, Natalie Aguirre, and Shannon Lawrence!

This month's question is:

Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

Well, I have to say yes to both. I'm often conflicted about my stories because I tend to lean toward stories that deal with complex, challenging issues and sometimes I feel like I might be moving beyond what can be considered okay in YA.

But I usually end up writing it anyway because once my mind has hooked into those characters and the journey they are going on, it's difficult to move away from the idea. I mean, a book about an amputee trying to lose his virginity is not your typical YA fare, right? Especially when I knew from the start this story was going to include sex workers as part of his journey. But I wrote it anyway because once the idea was there, it wouldn't leave me alone. And Stumped was my second published novel.

I was also conflicted about writing a book with a trans character as one of the narrators. But once again, the story got its grip into me, and I wrote it anyway. I was working with someone transitioning at the time and he was particularly open to talking to me about the experience which was what led me to write the book.

In my early drafts of An Unstill Life, back when it was still called The Boyfriend Plague, the MC had a brother who played a big role in the story. I was quite conflicted when I made the decision to erase him from the book and give a lot of his experiences to Livvie to have herself. But I'm confident the book is better because I made that challenging decision.

So I feel like no matter how conflicted I feel about something, if the idea is strong enough, it's not going to leave me alone, so I have to go ahead and write it.

What about you? Have you ever been so conflicted you gave up on an idea?