Thursday, March 30, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things: 31-3-23

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!

And daylight saving finishes tomorrow night.  Yay for that extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning!  I love it.

I've discovered another cool musical that I'm kind of obsessed with.  It's called Lizard Boy - check it out.  Very cool, mostly cello and acoustic guitar which is a combination I love.  But also a fun story about (surprise) a kid who has scales after a monster attack and his journey to love and self acceptance.  

I'm going to the orchestra this evening (Mahler 3) which will be great.  But other than that, I have no real plans for the weekend other than the usual - gym, supermarket shopping, household chores etc.  I plan to do lots of reading and maybe some writing too.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Books I've Read: Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution


I had real problems with this book.  I really wanted to like it, but there were so many things about it that annoyed me that I struggled to get through it.

This is a book where the entire central conflict could have been solved really, really easily, with a single conversation and I found it difficult to believe that no one else could see this.

Lark and Kasim used to be besties, but over the last year or so, they haven't been talking.  One night Kasim is at Lark's house at the invitation of their mother and accidently posts on Lark's Twitter account, saying he's in love with someone who doesn't love him back.  Lark, who wants to be a writer has been cultivating their Twitter followers in the hope it will be a good platform when they're published so takes this violation really seriously. But rather than tell the truth, Lark goes along with the story, using it to get closer to someone they're attracted to.  That this new relationship send their follower numbers into  the stratosphere doesn't hurt either.

But the relationship isn't that great and Lark quickly realises that and has to admit that they'd rather be with Kasim.  How can they extricate themselves from a relationship they don't want without making themselves look like a flake online?  And how do they tell Kasim how they really feel?

There is a ton of representation in this book.  Trans, non-binary, neuro-diverse, Black etc which is great. But is it realistic that there did not seem to be a single kid in this neighborhood who wasn't trans or non-binary? It was never mentioned that the place the kids did their writing class was a community centre for LGBTQIA+ kids, but given that every single one of the students sat somewhere on that spectrum, I guess it must have been or there would have been at least a few straight, cis kids there too.

The other thing that irritated me was that Lark self-diagnosed themselves as being neuro-diverse.  I guess it's good to be self-aware, but I'm not sure how realistic that was either.  But I guess it was as good a way as any to explain the scattered, often-confusing writing style of the book.  It was Lark's POV, so told in the neuro-diverse way they think.

But overall, the biggest thing that bugged me about this book was the way the kids talked to one another.  I have teenagers and I spend a lot of time listening to teenagers speak, and I've never heard them talk the way these kids talk to each other.  Or about the serious topics these kids seem to talk about ALL the time.  

So, I guess what I'm saying is that this book really didn't do it for me.  It annoyed me the whole time I was reading it and it keeps annoying me now, when I think about it.  And why put "revolution" in the title when there is no revolution?  Nothing big enough to be called a revolution happens in this book.

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

From National Book Award–winner Kacen Callender, a contemporary YA that follows Lark's journey to speak the truth and discover how their own self-love can be a revolution

Lark Winters wants to be a writer, and for now that means posting on their social media accounts––anything to build their platform. When former best friend Kasim accidentally posts a thread on Lark's Twitter declaring his love for a secret, unrequited crush, Lark's tweets are suddenly the talk of the school—and beyond. To protect Kasim, Lark decides to take the fall, pretending they accidentally posted the thread in reference to another classmate. It seems like a great idea: Lark gets closer to their crush, Kasim keeps his privacy, and Lark's social media stats explode. But living a lie takes a toll—as does the judgment of thousands of Internet strangers. Lark tries their best to be perfect at all costs, but nothing seems good enough for the anonymous hordes––or for Kasim, who is growing closer to Lark, just like it used to be between them . . .

In the end, Lark must embrace their right to their messy emotions and learn how to be in love.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Weekly Goals 27-3-22

 I didn't get any real writing stuff done over the weekend, unfortunately.  I did some blog stuff for the group blog I write for and that took up more time than I thought it would, unfortunately, so I didn't get time to do anything else.  But on the plus side, I did get some reading done.

This week I'm going to try and get though a final read-through of my MS before I start querying.  I just want to make sure everything works and there are no annoying little typos or grammar errors.  So that's my goal for this week (and possibly next week too since I am incredibly slow at this stuff).

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 24-3-23


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!

And it has been another busy week, so the break is much needed.  Not sure exactly what I'm going to do, but I definitely plan to see a film at some point.  One of the films I worked on in my last job just opened this week, so I will definitely try to find time to go to that!  Opening weekends are so critical if a film is going to succeed.

I also have some writing work I want to get done, so I'll work on that too, if I get time amongst all the regular chores etc.  I went to an online workshop about publishing this week, and it has re-invigorated me somewhat!  I may even send out the first couple of queries for Guide Us.  Who knows?

What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, March 20, 2023

Books I've Read: Tracy Flick Can't Win


I saw this one at the library and just couldn't say no.  I loved Election, both the book and the film, so this one was a must-read for me.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to.  Part of what made Election so much fun was how desperately ambitious Tracy was, and how relentlessly she went after what she wanted.  I know it's probably realistic that she's mellowed a bit over time, but this Tracy seemed to have very little in common with the Tracy in the first book.

This Tracy is still living in the hometown she grew up in, and is still, in fact, at the same same high school, now as the assistant principal.  She's divorced and has a daughter she's not that close to and few friends.  Her mother, who she considered her best friend, has died after a long illness that Tracy nursed her through rather than finishing her law degree.

When the principal announces he's retiring, Tracy knows she wants the job.  She thinks she's a shoo in, but just to be sure, supports one of the bigwigs on the school board with his grand plan to create a hall of fame for past students.  

The book follows Tracy and the various members of the committee pulling together the hall of fame, plus some potential honourees as the plan to build this edifice is pulled together.  As you can imagine, nothing goes quite as planned.

I found this book a quick and easy read, but it was depressing, not comical.  Tracy is a shell of the person she used to be, ground down by disappointment and routine.  All that spark and ambition and relentless cheer is gone.  She has no regrets about the past and what happened, just a kind of wistfulness that her life didn't turn out the way she wanted it to.  I suspect underneath her good cheer and acceptance is a raging beast full of fury, but it doesn't ever really come out...  There's a single glimpse of it at one point, but it's kind of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.

I suppose it's realistic.  Life does grind you down and few people are as bright eyed and confident in their dreams and ambitions at 50 as they were at 15. But that's not that fun to read about, really...

So, if you were a fan of Election, I'd suggest you give this one a miss...  It's not a whole lot of fun.

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

An “engrossing and mordantly funny” ( People ) novel about ambition, coming-of-age in adulthood, and never really leaving high school politics behind—featuring New York Times bestselling author Tom Perrotta’s most iconic character of all time.

Tracy Flick is a hardworking assistant principal at a public high school in suburban New Jersey. Still ambitious but feeling a little stuck and underappreciated in midlife, Tracy gets a jolt of good news when the longtime principal, Jack Weede, abruptly announces his retirement, creating a rare opportunity for Tracy to ascend to the top job.

Energized by the prospect of her long-overdue promotion, Tracy throws herself into her work with renewed zeal, determined to prove her worth to the students, faculty, and School Board, while also managing her personal life—a ten-year-old daughter, a needy doctor boyfriend, and a burgeoning meditation practice.

But nothing ever comes easily to Tracy Flick, no matter how diligent or qualified she happens to be. Her male colleagues’ determination to honor Vito Falcone—a star quarterback of dubious character who had a brief, undistinguished career in the NFL—triggers memories for Tracy and leads her to reflect on the trajectory of her own life. As she considers the past, Tracy becomes aware of storm clouds brewing in the present. Is she really a shoo-in for the principal job? Is the Superintendent plotting against her? Why is the School Board President’s wife trying so hard to be her friend? And why can’t she ever get what she deserves?

A sharp, darkly comic, and pitch-perfect chronicle of the second act of one of the most memorable characters of our time, Tracy Flick Can’t Win “delivers acerbic insight about frustrated ambition.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Weekly Goals 20-3-22

 I don't actually have much in the way of goals this week because I finished all my query package material last week.  I guess I should do another read-through of my MS to make sure I'm happy with all the changes I've made and that it all makes sense.  Plus, I need to start putting together a list of agents to query this time around.

I really don't feel that excited about it, even though I really like this book.  But I really like Standing Too Close too, and I never even got a full request for that one.  Querying is so soul destroying, but unfortunately necessary.  

What are your goals this week?

Friday, March 17, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 17-3-22


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!

Unfortunately I have another busy weekend ahead of me, but I'm feeling good because I got my query materials whipped into shape (although I think my longline is a bit funky) and sent them off for review.  April will be query month for Guide Us, I hope.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Books I've Read: Babysitter


This one is a tough one to write about.  While I would generally call myself a huge fan of Joyce Carol Oates' writing, I really couldn't get into this particular book.

Set in 1977 Detroit, Hannah is an upper-middle-class wife and mother whose husband is largely inattentive, and whose children are largely taken care of by their live-in Fillippino housekeeper.  She is on various boards and committees and it is at a fundraiser for one of these that she comes into contact with YK, a man who brushes her wrist and makes her feel both seen and desired in a way she hasn't been before.

It isn't long before Hannah is heading to YK's hotel, knowing what it is she's going for, but unable to reconcile the fact she is walking toward an affair.  This person is not who she sees herself as, but as the book progresses, it is increasingly difficult to see exactly how Hannah sees herself - or even if she sees herself at all.

When Hannah's timid assignations with YK turn violent, she hides her bruises, washes away the evidence and gets on with her life.  She tells herself she'll refuse YK's next invitation, but she doesn't and this rendez-vous is more brutal than the last - so much so that she can't hide the results from her husband.  He's convinced it has to have been a Black man who did it, and Hannah allows him to believe this rather than admitting to her affair.

In the background of this tawdry little affair is the story on the news; a serial killer is picking off young boys in the city, leaving their freshly washed naked bodies in public places with their laundered clothes folded neatly beside them.  Called "Babysitter" by the press, the story has little affect on Hannah until a boy from her own neighborhood goes missing.

There are three threads that weave through this book - Hannah's story, the Babysitter story and the story of a young man whose time in a Catholic boys home exposed him to a well-organised pedophile ring.  That all three stories eventually converge is both inevitable and horrifying.

I found this book a frustrating read.  I never got a handle on Hannah as a character.  She is clearly damaged - she thinks often of her "Joker Daddy" whose abusive behaviour toward her and her mother has apparently warped her sense of self (and possibly her idea of what intimacy and desire should look like).  She sees herself only as an object of desire and her self-worth seems so firmly tied to this notion that she's willing to risk everything to remain that.  

The story is told in fragments, often out of sequence, so I often found myself trying to piece together a narrative that seemed to be missing too many pieces to ever be whole.  But maybe I was just too frustrated with Hannah's lack of agency in her own decisions to see the things I was missing.  I know women at this time were often lacking in choices because they had no money or skills for earning it without their husbands, but Hannah seemed even more pathetic than most.  

So I don't think I'd recommend this one.  I didn't hate it, but here are other, better books by this author that should be read.

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

From one of America's most renowned storytellers comes a novel about love and deceit, and lust and redemption, against a background of child abductions in the affluent suburbs of Detroit.

In the waning days of the turbulent 1970s, in the wake of unsolved killings that have shocked Detroit, the lives of several residents are drawn together, with tragic consequences. There is Hannah, wife of a prominent local businessman, who has begun an affair with a darkly charismatic stranger whose identity remains elusive; Mikey, a canny street hustler who finds himself on an unexpected mission to rectify injustice; and the serial killer known as Babysitter, an enigmatic and terrifying figure at the periphery of elite Detroit. As Babysitter continues his rampage of killings, these individuals intersect with one another in startling and unexpected ways.

Suspenseful, brilliantly orchestrated and engrossing, Babysitter is a starkly narrated exploration of the riskiness of pursuing alternate lives, calling into question how far we are willing to go to protect those whom we cherish most. In its scathing indictment of corrupt politics, unexamined racism, and the enabling of sexual predation in America, Babysitter is a thrilling work of contemporary fiction.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Weekly Goals 13-3-23

 I managed to finish my query and synopsis over the weekend, so now I'm busy researching agents to approach.  I find it difficult to believe I'm almost at this point again, but here we are...  I think I should probably do one more pass through the book before I start sending out queries, but I'm just about there.

So that's my main goal this week.

What are you hoping to get done?

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 10-3-23

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!

It has been a pretty busy week so I'm looking forward to doing some relaxing.  Although I do have quite a busy weekend planned...  I'm going to the orchestra tomorrow night - the first concert of this year's season - which will be lovely.  It's baroque music and being performed in the cathedral. Should be lovely!

I'm also going to try and catch a movie as well as do a double class at the gym tomorrow morning (to make up for not riding my bike to work today because it's raining - not sure if exercise works that way, but...)

I finished writing my dreaded synopsis of Guide Us, and now need to try and write a compelling query.  Damn I hate those things.  Especially since this book is dual POV and it's so hard to get that across in a query.  Plus I have a bunch of blogging tasks to get through this weekend.  Suddenly I feel like maybe I'm not going to get so much rest this weekend...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Books I've read: Joash & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating


Some weeks I hit the weekend and I just don't have the energy or brain capacity to read anything too heavy.  This last weekend was one of those, so I picked up a frothy romance from the library so I had something fun to read.  

This was a fun one because the two central characters were, at least on the surface, so unmatched in terms of personalities.  Although despite Hazel constantly telling us how unconventional she is, I didn't think she was actually that OTT.  She was kind of flighty and chaotic, but I know people who are much worse than Hazel is, and they still manage to function in the world.

I have to say, I'm really not a huge fan of main characters telling the reader that kind of thing about themselves.  If they are really that kind of character, their actions and the reactions of those around them should show you.

But I digress... 

Josh has known Hazel since college, but they've never really been friends.  So much so that it's a total surprise to Hazel when she discovers her new best friend from work is Josh's sister.  And after meeting again at her house, The pair seem to keep crossing one another's path.

When Josh breaks up with his girlfriend, he needs a shoulder to cry on and Hazel just happens to be there to take the role of new best friend.  Together they support one another to get back out there and start dating again, each setting the other up with someone for a string of increasingly awful double dates.

And why should they keep putting themselves through that torture when the best thing about them is debriefing with each other afterward?

This was fun and predictable and followed all the tropes of a satisfying romance novel.  If it hadn't been for Hazel's annoying habit of telling us how nuts she is, I would have had a thoroughly good time with this one.  Interesting supporting characters, some good sex scenes that never veered to close to erotica and a couple that seemed like they should be together.

So I'd recommend this one if you're looking for something really un-challenging for an easy weekend read.

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

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Weekly Goals 6-3-23

 This week I'm working on the dreaded synopsis for Guide Us and a query letter.  I feel like I'm very close to being ready to query this one, so need to make sure I have everything an agent might request as part of a query package.  I hate synopses.  Especially when you need ones of all different lengths.  I always feel like really important stuff falls by the wayside in the interest of brevity.  

For instance, in the book I'm currently working on, Juliet is really close to her twin brother and they look after one another.  But somehow that isn't coming through in the synopsis and Jason sounds like a real prick because of some of his actions (which aren't great, I admit, but are not done to hurt Juliet even if they eventually do).  But adding details about their relationship adds words to the synopsis without driving the plot forward, so those moments are missed. 

But I guess I'll get there in the end.  I usually do.  Eventually.

So, that's my goal for this week.  To get those boring jobs done so I can get this book out into the world in the next month or so..

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 3-3-22


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 it has been a busy week, so I'm looking forward to some downtime.  I don't have much planned other than having lunch with my parents tomorrow and a bit of blogging work I need to do for Operation Awesome.

I may even find some time to write...  Or at least read a bit.  I'm already getting behind on my reading goal for the year and it's only March!

I went to see a friend's stand-up show last night which was hilarious!  She's very talented.  We used to work together, and she was always funny, but I don't think I would have picked stand-up as being the thing that she'd shine at.  But she sure does!

What are you celebrating this week?