Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Insecure Writers Support Group


It's the beginning of March so it's time fore the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the March 1 posting of the IWSG are Diedre Knight, Tonya Drecker, Bish Denham, Olga Godim, and JQ Rose!

This month's question is a good one:

Have you ever read a line in novel or a clever plot twist that caused you to have author envy?

You have no idea how often this happens to me.  I'll be reading along, and something will just jump out at me as being one of the most perfect descriptions or beautiful turn of phrase.  And yet, somehow I can't think of a single example to tell you about here.  I know it happens quite often, and I always think, "I must remember that", yet here I am...

I'm also in awe of clever plotting when I come across it.  Especially mysteries.  I love unpicking them after I've finished reading and figuring out where the clues were seeded earlier in the book.  I don't think I could ever write a mystery because I'm just not clever enough with plotting (read, I don't plot at all) to make all the pieces work.

That said, there is an element of mystery in the book I have coming out later this year.  But it wasn't plotted as a mystery at all.  The mystery element was something I added later after feedback from my then agent.  I think maybe it's easier to add those clues in after you've written the ending, but I don't actually know any mystery writers so it's all...ahem... a mystery to me.

The worst kind of author envy I get is when I read a book about something and the book just doesn't do the subject justice in my mind.  I find that so frustrating because there probably isn't a market for another book on the same topic, but I know I could write that story so much better than the author did.  So I'm envious that they got to that idea before me.

What gives you author envy?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Weekly Goals 27-2-23

 I don't have much in the way of goals this week.  I'm still chipping away at edits on Guide Us.  I had hoped to be finished by the end of February, but I'm not going to be.  I've done the big stuff, but I'm going back through and tightening up a few things and adding a few bits and pieces where I feel they're needed.

So I may be finished in a couple of weeks.

I have a busy week this week with work stuff and various other events I've committed to, so I won't have a lot of spare time.  But I'll squeeze in some writing somewhere...

What are your goals tis week?

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 24-2-23


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've had a stupidly busy week at work this week so I need a break.  Not that I think I'll get much of one.  I have a ton of things I need to do over the weekend, the most pressing to put my book cases back together after having to take everything down to get the new carpet laid (which is super nice to walk on and looks amazing).  So that's most of my Sunday gone...

I'm celebrating the new carpet and new furniture to go on it.  We finally bought a new couch and chairs for the first time since the year 2000.  I love that old couch and especially the squooshy chairs that are the perfect size for curling up and reading in, but they are worn out.  So looking forward to being comfortable on the new furniture.

My bike got stolen from outside my work this week, so I'm grumpy about that - not celebrating.  But on the plus side, there's only about six more riding weeks left before daylight saving finishes, so I will ride my son's bike to work for that time, and look at buying a new bike toward the end of the year when summer starts again.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Books I've Read: How Maya Got Fierce


This was a fun one.  Kind of a fantasy, but a fun kind of fantasy based in the contemporary world.

Maya Gera is the daughter of California garlic famers and knows her future is to run the family farm once her parents retire.  To ensure she's skilled up to do that, this summer she's heading to an agricultural college in New Jersey to begin her journey.  And maybe to meet a nice Indian boy.

Unfortunately garlic, cow camp and a Sikh boyfriend are not what Maya really wants.  Since her older cousin bought her a subscription to Fierce magazine, Maya has wanted nothing but to work there.  She has hundreds of ideas about how to improve representation and to get more diverse voices heard.

So it's a dream come true when she discovers her cousin's live-in girlfriend is working at Fierce. The same cousin she's staying with while at cow camp.  At first Maya just spends weekends at Fierce, helping out in the massive fashion wardrobes.  She adores it - far more than cow camp where the only good thing is the handsome young dude from a winery.  A guy she realises she's beginning to crush on despite promising herself she wouldn't go ga ga over any boys.

When an intern position comes up at Fierce, Maya decides to do something for herself for once and applies.  She's thrilled to get the role and ditches cow camp in favour of the magazine.  She'll explain it all to her parents later, once she's rocked the position hard enough that they can't get mad about it.  

When she starts at the magazine, she discovers she might be in a little over her head.  All the paperwork says she's an assistant editor.  And the cute intern is now working for her?

As she juggles more lies than she can count, Maya somehow manages to make an impression at Fierce.  All she needs now is to get the guy too.  And make sure her family never hears about any of this.

There's nothing very realistic about this book, but who hasn't dreamed about landing a dream job out of the blue?  And as a seventeen year old?  It was a quick, fun read and I found myself rooting for Maya even as she got more and more over her head.

So I'd recommend this one.  Especially if you're looking for something fun to get away from the world's usual gloom and doom.  I could picture this as a movie, kind of in the same vein as something like 13 Going on 30. 

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb (which doesn't quite match the book I read, but whatever...):

The Bold Type meets Younger in How Maya Got Fierce by Sona Charaipotra, a YA fish-out-of-water contemporary novel!

Ever since she was little, farmer's daughter Maya Gera has known what her future holds.

The heiress to a mini garlic empire in the heart of Gilroy, California, she's meant to be a good Indian girl -- which means agriculture school, an MBA, and settling down with a suitable Sikh boy.

So spending her 17th summer at cow camp in New Jersey is a really big deal. Farm kids nationwide convene to learn to milk cows, shuck corn, and, uh, form 'strategic alliances.' But when Maya gets kicked out of camp after an expensive accident -- yes, it involves a boy -- she scrambles to save face and keep her parents from finding out. Hard to do when she owes the school thousands of dollars.

Desperate to earn enough to pay off her mistake, Maya interviews for an internship at Fierce, a fashion magazine she's been obsessed with forever. When she lands a gig as assistant features editor, it's a New York City dream come true. Especially because she rocks at it.

But it might soon become her worst nightmare -- because the Fierce folks think she's 26.

And just wait until her parents find out.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Weekly Goals 20-2-23

 I don't have much in the way of goals this week, I'm afraid.  I've been too busy with the day job to think much about anything else, and I'm having a day off mid-week this week because we're getting new carpet laid, so I need to focus on all the work I have to get done.

I'm slowly working through another round of edits on Guide Us and hope to get those done by the end of the month (although I'm realizing the end of the month is next week, so maybe not...)  I'd like to get that out to a couple of new readers once I've completed the edits, while I work on the query and synopsis etc.

Because yes, I'm going to dive into the query trenches again with this one.  Just call me a masochist.

Hoping the weather might be better this week so I can ride to work most days.  Last week was a complete wash-out in that regard, but then, there was a cyclone that destroyed a large chunk of the country so I'm  grateful we didn't get hit so hard here. It just rained a lot and me not being able to ride my bike is not a big deal in comparison to people losing their homes and family members like they have in other parts of the country.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 17-2-23


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I signed a publishing contract this week.  My Murder Year will be coming out later on this year.  

I'm actually doing what I said I was going to do in my yearly goals and getting those books off my hard drive and out into the world.

And it's the weekend!  It's been a busy week at work and I'm looking forward to not working for a couple of days.

And next week we're getting new carpet in our lounge which I'm very excited about too.  And hopefully a new couch too!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Books I've Read: This Train is Being Held


This was a fun, cute read.  I enjoyed the fact the relationship was based almost entirely on random encounters on the subway and that was enough to spark a romance.  Although, I did question whether it was possible given the sheer number of trains running on New York's subway lines, but I guess if people have a routine, you can pretty much guarantee they'll be on a certain train at a certain time.

Isabelle is a dancer and a private school kid; Alex is not.  But he is a baseball star and his father has him pegged to be drafted into the minor leagues right out of high school.  Alex enjoys baseball, but he's a secret poet and longs to go to college to see if he can be more than just a ball player.

Over the course of several years, Alex and Isa meet on the subway and form a bond.  Isa's life is not as shiny as it seems on the surface but she doesn't let Alex in on that and it's her secrets that end up pushing them apart at the point they have just become the closest.

Both of them are guilty of believing things that aren't entirely true.  Alex is certain Isa's family will never accept him because he's Latino so when he meets them, he expects to be rejected.  Isa thinks she has to be happy and positive all the time or people won't like her so she doesn't talk about her problems or share her pain.

I won't say more about the plot because it will ruin it for you.  But it is cute, even when things do get heavier with both Alex and Isa holding secrets that are too big for them to handle.

I enjoyed this one until the end.  I felt like the resolution to the story was rushed and didn't feel like it fit with the rest of the book.  It was almost like the author decided they needed more action and decided to go all out with the ending.  It was jarring and didn't really fit with the rest of the book.

But otherwise, it was an enjoyable read.  

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

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most. Heartfelt and evocative, this romantic drama will appeal to readers of Jenny Han and Sarah Dessen.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Weekly Goals 13-2-23

 I don't actually have a whole lot of goals this week.  I think I may have burned myself out a bit last week with getting so much out the door and into the world.

So this week I'm giving myself a bit of a break and will focus on reading books instead of writing them.

Then next week I can get back to writing.

And of course, there's also the threat of a cyclone over the next couple of days, which puts a bit of a wrinkle on things.  Fingers crossed it doesn't hit Wellington as hard as it's hit further North.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 10-2-23


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 know it's been a short week because of the holiday on Monday, but it has been a very busy week which included an all-day workshop.  So I'm looking forward to a restful weekend.

I got three manuscripts out on the holiday Monday - two to contests and one to a publisher.  Fingers crossed one or more might get picked up.

I've done a read through of another MS I abandoned at some point, and I think it may have potential if I do a bit of polishing on it.  And write the last couple of chapters that seem to be missing.  So that might be another project for me once I finish up my last few tweaks on Guide Us.

And finally, just a wee request from one of my other projects, if anyone knows any authors with an X or a Q in their name (or book title - and they must have at least one published book) I'd be interested in being put in touch.  It's for the April A -Z challenge and something we're looking at doing on the group blog I write for.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Books I've loved: Betty


Several years ago an author emailed me out of the blue offering me the opportunity to read her book via NetGalley.  At that point I'd never used NetGalley, but the book sounded interesting and I am pre-disposed to helping out any author who reaches out to me.  The author was Tiffany McDaniel and her book was called The Summer that Melted Everything.  At the time I struggled a bit with NetGalley and I don't think I managed to get my review in on time which was a shame because it was beautifully written and I enjoyed the language very much.

So when I found this new book by McDaniel, I pounced on it right away.  And boy am I glad I did!

Based on her own family's history, Betty is a gritty, often dark, but also very funny book about an eccentric family.  Betty is one of eight children and her coming of age story is entwined with those of her siblings even when she doesn't fully understand what is happening with them.

Their father is Cherokee, and his culture's myths and legends coupled with his own eccentric brand of storytelling winds through Betty's understanding of the world.  These stories are like the myths ancient civilizations used to explain the parts of life that could not otherwise be explained, but here, they are specific to the life Betty and her family struggle to carve out on the outskirts of a small Appalachian town.

The book starts before Betty's birth and shows how her parents got together - an unlikely pairing, yet one that seems to have worked - then follows them as they start a family, lose several children to accidents and misfortune, and have more.

The characters are so beautifully drawn in this book, each with their own unique personality, characteristics and mannerisms.  And each with their own distinct way of coping with the darkness that seems to constantly lurk on the edges of their existence.

This is not in any way a joyful book.  The lives these people live are difficult and tragedy strikes quickly and often.  Yet somehow Betty manages to survive the trauma and find new ways to live with it.  That she's a writer from a young age probably helps.  She often writes about the difficult things happening around her, the things she knows but can't talk about, and buries the pages in the earth.  

I loved this book and despite its darkness.  Betty's headstrong nature and her resilience in the face of so much tragedy was inspiring and I feel like a lot of people could learn from her attitude to life.

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

A stunning, lyrical novel set in the rolling foothills of the Appalachians in which a young girl discovers stark truths that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

"A girl comes of age against the knife."

So begins the story of Betty Carpenter. Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence--both from outside the family, and also, devastatingly, from within. The lush landscape, rich with birdsong, wild fruit, and blazing stars, becomes a kind of refuge for Betty, but when her family's darkest secrets are brought to light, she has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.

But despite the hardship she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters, and her father's brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all she bears witness to, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write. She recounts the horrors of her family's past and present with pen and paper and buries them deep in the dirt--moments that has stung her so deeply, she could not tell them, until now.

Inspired by the life of her own mother, Tiffany McDaniel sets out to free the past by telling this heartbreaking yet magical story--a remarkable novel that establishes her as one of the freshest and most important voices in American fiction.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Weekly Goals 6-2-23

 It's a holiday today, so I'm taking advantage of the extra day off to get some writing work done.  I'm going to finish the revisions and tweaks I was doing on Friday and get those books sent off to the contest.  And then I'm going to do a bit more work on Guide Us.  I'm determined to get that one out to new readers by the end of the month.  So, if you would like to be one of those readers, sing out!

As for the rest of the week, I think I'm going to be pretty busy at work because of the short week.  So I am not counting on getting any more writing stuff done until the weekend.  And even then, it might be pushing it, depending on what else I have on.

What are your goals for the week?

Friday, February 3, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 3-2-23


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

What am I celebrating this week?

Long weekend!  And I made it extra long by taking the Friday off as well.  So four days of weekend to enjoy!

I used the extra Friday to write and made some excellent progress on edits to Guide Us.  I think it still needs a little more work, particularly at the beginning of the book.  Just small things.  A line here or there that will highlight some elements a little more.  I hope to use Monday to do this work and a few other little writing-related jobs I've set for myself.

I also did a little work on Shook because I want to enter that one into a contest that's coming up.  Again, it still needs a little more work, so hopefully I can get that done on Monday too.  I have a goal to get all my completed, unpublished novels out into the world over the next couple of months in some way shape or form.  Some will go to contests, others will go to publishers and I plan to query Guide Us when it is ready.  Hopefully something will get picked up somewhere.  I'm sitting on far too many completed manuscripts at the moment and I'm determined to find them all homes.

As for the rest of the long weekend, I'm heading up the coast on Saturday to spend a day with my friend who lives up there.  It was her birthday this week, and another mutual friend's birthday, so we are all getting together to celebrate.  And on Sunday I'm going to the movies to see The Whale.  It will be the first time in a while, I think, that I will have seen all, or almost all the Oscar contenders.

And I think that's about all for celebrations this week.  What are your wins?