Friday, December 30, 2022

Looking back at 2022

As it's the end of the year, it's time for me to look back at the goals I set for myself back in January to see if I actually managed to meet any of them.  The original letter to myself is in black; end of year commentary in purple. 

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.

Well, I have done some of this.  I haven't finished yet because I sent it to readers for feedback and now need to address their notes.  I planned to do that while I was on holiday this week, but the weather was too nice and I ended up doing stuff in the garden and around the house instead...  So something to work on in the New Year.

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.

I did enter the contest.  Didn't win.  Still trying to find a home for this one. 

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.

I've done a bit, but I'm running out of space for paintings and no one really wants them.  So I'm experimenting with making things using the painting techniques, like coasters and vases and trays etc.

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!

Still doing this.  Not sure if I'm losing any weight, but at least I'm not putting it on, I don't think.

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

Done this.  Not every week, but pretty close to it.  I even went yesterday and saw what is definitely my #1 film of 2022, The Banshees of Inisherin.

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…

It was, yet we did it again this year...  Maybe this time the shows will actually go ahead.

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?

And that was 2022.  I'll have to think a bit about my 2023 goals, so my 2023 "Dear Me" post will have to come after I get back from the beach in mid-Jan.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Books I've Read: An Arrow to the Moon


This was a fascinating book, part Romeo and Juliet, part Chinese mythology and part magic realism.

Luna and Hunter are both part of the small Chinese community in their town, yet have never really met before a New Year's party where all the older kids sneak out to attend a different party next door.  They have an almost supernatural connection to one another, but realize it's probably not going to go anywhere once they discover their parents are arch-rivals who have spent most of their time in this city trying to avoid one another.

Yet having met, these two suddenly find themselves constantly running into one another and things between them continue to simmer and draw them together.

Both have some slightly supernatural gifts - Hunter has perfect aim and a magical wind follows him around and throws money at him when he needs it.  Luna sees fireflies even in the dead of winter and appears to summon them whenever things become too difficult for her or when she is in danger.  

And things are constantly becoming too much for her this year.  She and her parents have always been close, but suddenly their high expectations and the way they want to plan her life for her is becoming stifling.  Hunter's home-life isn't much better and if it weren't for the younger brother he adores, he'd probably leave.  He's sick of hiding in the shadows because of something his parents did years ago.

When a giant crack appears in the land and begins spreading through the town, Hunter and Luna begin to realize it has something to do with them, and if they can't figure out how to pull themselves together, the entire town might fracture or sink into the abyss.

There were so many layers to this story that I can't help thinking a second reading might not be a bad idea.  There was so much going on between the family feuds, the mysterious ancient artifacts, the parallels between Luna and Hunter's lives, the mercenary collector chasing Hunter's family and the various stories from Chinese mythology that appear like magic in a notebook only Hunter's brother sees.  Yet all the threads wove together in a satisfying way.

If you like magic realism mixed in with your contemporary stories, you'll probably love this.

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

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new high school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love… but time is running out, and fate will have its way.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 23-12-22


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

What am I celebrating this week?


I finished work on Wednesday and am not going back until January 12 - three whole weeks of vacation!  Yes, I have to get through Christmas, but that's one day, two if I add Boxing Day which will be another family-filled one, but after that, freedom!  And the beach house for a week.

My sister is here with her family and it's nice to see them for the first time since 2018/19.  My niece is so grown up now!  And looks so much like my sister.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas (if you celebrate it) and I'll catch you again after the jolly fat man's visit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022


I'm not a huge romance reader, but sometimes, when I'm super exhausted, there's something very relaxing about vegging out with a simple, predictable, formulaic romance novel.  And this last weekend, this was just what I needed.

Lucy is a widow - something that is mentioned over and over and over in this book.  Her husband, who she adored, died in a car wreck a scant eight months after their wedding.  Five years on, she's still mourning, but is starting to feel like she might be ready to jump back into the dating game.

She's not looking for love, mind you.  She's looking for companionship and sex and stability, but so afraid of having her heart shattered again, she's not looking for anyone who makes her feel something too strong.  Which means Ethan,  her current best-friend-with-benefits - her husband's younger brother - is off limits.

But staying away from Ethan isn't as easy as she thinks it might be and she finds she misses his company more than she thought she would.  And Ethan isn't giving up on her either.  He's determined to make Lucy see that he's not just Jimmy's goofy younger brother, that he's worth looking at in his own right.

As the pair dance with the idea of a forever together, can Lucy take a risk on happiness?

I found this a quick, easy read, which frustrated me in places.  The constant repetition of Lucy's widowhood, her hang ups, her fear of the graveyard near the family bakery.  Author, we get it!  We don't need constant reminders that this is how she thinks and feels.  Maybe just a few dropped in here and there in case the reader has set the book aside for a few days...

I liked the small town Lucy and Ethan live in with the cast of eccentric characters, none more so than Lucy's family of "black widows", women  who have remained single after the premature deaths of their husbands.  They were hilarious, but the effect their sanctimonious mourning has had on Lucy and her sister is terrifying to see.  When Lucy's sister's husband walks out on her, I wanted to cheer.  No man wants his wife hovering over him, checking in that he hasn't died, done anything dangerous - like eat bacon - or failed to floss every five minutes.  Probably not the reaction the author was going for, but...

Anyway.  If you're looking for a simple, comforting romance, you could do worse than this one.  It's predictable and follows all the traditional romance novel tropes, but sometimes that's just what you want out of a book.

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

Lucy Lang isn't looking for fireworks...

She's looking for a nice, decent man. Someone who'll mow the lawn, flip chicken on the barbeque, teach their future children to play soccer. But most important... someone who won't inspire the slightest stirring in her heart...or anywhere else. A young widow, Lucy can't risk that kind of loss again. But sharing her life with a cat named Fat Mikey and the Black Widows at the family bakery isn't enough either. So it's goodbye to Ethan, her hot but entirely inappropriate "friend with privileges" and hello to a man she can marry.

Too bad Ethan Mirabelli isn't going anywhere. As far as he's concerned, what she needs might be right under her nose. But can he convince her that the next best thing can really be forever?

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Weekly Goals 19-12-22

 It's done to the wire now...  Three more days at work and then HOLIDAYS!  I am very much looking forward to it.

My sister has arrived in the country with her family, but I won't see them until Thursday because they have gone to Stewart Island with my folks for a few days before coming to Wellington.  Am looking forward to catching up with my niece for the first time since 2019.  She was a little kid then, and now she's in junior high!

My goals this week are really just to get through Christmas and all the family stuff that goes along with it.  Then my real holiday can start.  I am going to go to the library on Thursday and take out a pile of books so I can spend at least three or four hours a day reading.  What luxury!

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 16-12-22


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 after the weekend there's only three more days of work before holidays!

Do I seem excited about that?  Well, I am.  It's been a LOOOOONG year and I'm very much looking forward to having a break.  I don't think I've had more than a couple of days off since last year's summer holidays.  And they finished in January!

I tweaked my back the other day when I was riding home from work so have been in a bit of pain the last couple of days, but miraculously it seems to have put itself right today.  It feels like some kind of a magic, but I haven't taken any painkillers for over 13 hours, and my back feels fine.  I can't help thinking I got away lightly with this one.

Unfortunately I'm still dealing with the after-effects of the flu I had a couple of weeks back and my tonsils keep infecting each other.  Last week it was the left one that was sore; this week it's the right.  Hopefully a restful weekend and some salt water gargling will clear that one up.  I'm so totally over not feeling 100%.

I made my Xmas presents last weekend and need to finish them off this week.  it will be my first time working with resin, so wish me luck!  I hope it works the way I want it to because the resin was expensive to buy.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Books I've Read: Beating Heart Baby


I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn't do it for me.  Maybe I've just read too many books about internet friendships crossing over into real life or something.  I don't know... I just found it really predictable and nothing really surprised me about it in any way.

I liked the characters and the fact they were all part of a high school marching band and I liked the way the band had become kind of a family for many of the members who didn't fit in elsewhere.  I liked how Santi was quickly absorbed into this family.  I even liked the stop-start nature of Suwa and Santi's friendship, but it was really clear to me right from the start that these two were the same people who had been communicating online and bonding over their queerness and anime.

So all the rest of the book, as the two of them made this discovery themselves, didn't really work for me.  And let's not even go into how unlikely it would be that these two internet friends would be at the same school in a city the size of LA... 

The musical backdrop of this book was great and I liked that Suwa spent time in Tokyo and we got to see some of that, even if it wasn't a lot.  So I didn't hate it.  I just didn't like it all that much and felt like I'd seen and heard most of this before.

But if you haven't read a lot of books like this, you might find it fresher and more engaging than I did.  And if you're looking for a cast of characters that are both culturally and sexually diverse, this book represents across the spectrum.

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

Lio Min’s Beating Heart Baby is a love letter to internet friendships, anime, and indie rock

When artistic and sensitive Santi arrives at his new high school, everyone in the wildly talented marching band welcomes him with open arms. Everyone except for the prickly, proud musical prodigy Suwa, who doesn’t think Santi has what it takes to be in the band.

But Santi and Suwa share painful pasts, and when they open up to each other, a tentative friendship begins. And soon, that friendship turns into something more. . . .

Will their fresh start rip at the seams as Suwa seeks out a solo spotlight, and both boys come to terms with what it'll take, and what they'll have to let go, to realize their dreams?

Monday, December 12, 2022

Weekly Goals 12-12-22

 Somehow I managed to miss writing this post yesterday morning...  I was submitting some short stories, and for some reason it must have slipped my mind!  But better late than never!

Not that I actually have much in the way of goals for this week.  It's my last full week at work, so I'm trying to get everything wrapped up so I can go on holiday without a whole lot of stuff hanging over me.  My main goal for this week is to finish off my Christmas presents so they have enough time to dry before the big day.  I managed to get the painting done this last weekend, but still need to do a layer of epoxy resin on top and that needs about a week to cure.

I'm finally feeling better after my flu and I road my bike to work yesterday.  Hopefully the beautiful weather we're having will stick and I can do it again tomorrow and Friday.

And that's about it for goals right now.  What are you trying to get done this week?

Friday, December 9, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 9-12-22


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

What am I celebrating this week?

We had our staff holiday party which meant not going into the office for the day, so it's almost like a long weekend.  Which is nice because I'm still trying to get over this cold/flu thing I've had.  I'm feeling much better, but there's still a lingering cough and all the coughing has given me a whole new sore throat.  I'm going to try to have a quiet weekend to get rid of these last symptoms.

It's only a couple of weeks until Christmas, so I need to get things organized in terms of gifts.  I've done most of my shopping, but I need to make the handmade gifts I give every year and the weather has not been very helpful in terms of being able to get outside to do that work.  Fingers crossed tomorrow will be fine.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Insecure Writers Support Group - December 2022

 It's the first Wednesday in December so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

The awesome co-hosts for the December 7 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Chemist Ken, Natalie Aguirre, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

This month's question is an interesting one:

It's holiday time! Are the holidays a time to catch up or fall behind on writer goals?

I think this one is different for me than it is for most people in this group because I live in New Zealand and the holiday season coincides with our summer break. So while I always have great intentions of using the time I have off work to write, I very seldom actually do much writing because I want to be outdoors and relaxing with friends and family in the sun.

It’s also the only time in the year when I get a decent break from working, so there are always chores that need to be done around the house. During the year I’m so busy I tend to do a fairly cursory weekly clean, so the holidays end up being the time I defrost the fridge, clean out the pantry and cabinets and maybe even give the windows a wash.

Plus I spend a week or so away from home, at the beach house, which should be a great refuge for writing because internet is limited and won’t be a distraction. But somehow, even if I bring my laptop to the beach, it’s rarely touched because there are so many wonderful outdoor activities to fill my days with. Not to mention a very nice deck to sit and read on…

So, I guess my answer to this is that the holidays really aren’t a time to catch up on any of my writing goals. Although I do need to whip through another round of revisions on my new book over the holidays so I can get it out to a new group of readers in the New Year. And I’m putting that out there now so you can all hold me accountable for actually doing it.

What are your holidays like? Do you manage to write at all, or just take a break until the New Year? I’ve always found it useful in the years I’ve done NaNo because the holidays give you around the perfect length of time to leave a book to rest so you come back to it with fresh eyes.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Weekly Goals 5-12-22

 Can you believe it's December already?  Where has the year gone?  But thank goodness it's almost the summer holidays.  I am so looking forward to my time off this year.  I know I probably say that every year, but this year feels even more like I need a break.

I'm still not 100% over my flu/cold I had last week, but I really can't take any more time off work, so I'm going back in today.  Depending on how it goes, I may even try the gym tomorrow morning.  Really need to get back into exercising before I turn into a blob.

I seriously need to start getting organized for Christmas too.  I haven't even started making my gifts, so fingers crossed for nice weather next weekend so I can get outside and make those gifts.

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

Friday, December 2, 2022

Celebrate the Small Things 22-12-22

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'm beginning to feel better.

I've been really sick this week.  Not COVID - I tested negative several times - but frankly, worse than when I did get COVID earlier in the year.  I've never been so sick I needed to take more than a day or two off work, but I haven't been into the office all week.  I did do some work from home on Thursday and Friday, but I'm not 100% sure any of it was much good.

I'm going to try and take it very easy this weekend even though I do have several things I need to go to.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed I'll feel well enough by tomorrow afternoon to go to the first one.  Feeling pretty positive that I will.  I don't actually feel too bad today except for the coughing which is driving me mad and waking me up at night.

So I'm celebrating being on the mend.  I have a ton of work to get through before we close down for the summer, so I really need to get back to work!  Not to mention I feel like I'm turning into a blob of blubber with not exercising all week.  I have to get back to the gym and on my bike.

What are you celebrating this week?