Sunday, July 30, 2023

Weekly Goals 31-7-23

 The film festival is on so I'm not going to set myself any writing goals this week - I know I won't hit them.

So far the Festival has been okay.  I haven't seen anything I'd rave about, but I have enjoyed everything I've seen:

 All That Heaven Allowed, a documentary about Rock Hudson.  It was good, but I felt that the ending laboured its point too much.  I did enjoy the way the filmmakers cut in scenes and lines from his films that, in the context, could be interpreted in an entirely different way than I'm sure the writers intended!

Carmen, the directorial debut of dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied. This was an odd film that was part romance, part tense border-crossing drama, part ghost story and part musical.  It didn't work 100%, but the performances were excellent and the dancing sensational.

L’immensità, an Italian film about the breakdown of a marriage told through the eyes of a twelve-year-old gender questioning child.  It was a little slow at ties, but the kids were fantastic performers and Penelope Cruz was great in the role of the mother struggling to find moments of joy in a loveless marriage.

More to come this week.  I'm hoping for at least a couple of really life-changing films in what's yet to come.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 28-7-23


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I had a wonderful vacation.  It was definitely too short, but also definitely better than nothing.  Samoa is beautiful.  Much busier than I remember from the early '80s, and with far better roads.  It's also much bigger than I remember.  I don't recall it taking an hour or so to get to the airport, but it does.  I don't remember the drive across the island to the beaches being so long, or the drive to Piula being so far.

I also think there was only a single Chinese restaurant and that was the only option for a meal out other than going to a hotel.  Not the case anymore!  There are lots of restaurants and cafes and the food was surprisingly good.  Just not a lot of vegetables.  Check out the size of the lobster I ate at the Island Grill!  At home that would probably have cost $200 or so.  In Samoa it was the equivalent of about $35.

I was with a friend who had also lived in Samoa as a kid, just a little while before me, so we did a lot of looking around at places we remembered.  I saw my old house and my old school (which is now the archive for the ministry of education) and we saw the school where my mother taught.  We couldn't go in there because it was holidays and locked up.  We also couldn't go to the beach my family used to go to almost every weekend because it was closed off for pre-production on a TV series.  This was also the reason we weren't allowed to go to the beach next to my family's favourite which was annoying.

We did get to go swimming in a couple of extraordinary marine reserves.  One is a place where they're cultivating giant clams which was quite extraordinary.  Those clams are truly giant!  They're the size of sheep and have lips in all colours of the rainbow.  There were only four or five clams that size, but hundreds of smaller ones which will hopefully grow up to be giant.

We also snorkled at Palolo Deep which is ridiculously close to the port.  It's where the seabed was dredged to create reclaimed land on Apia's waterfront and is now a reserve.  The most beautiful coral has grown back in the trench and there were more fish than you could ever imagine and in every colour of the rainbow.  There were a few places where we were so surrounded by Damselfish it was like being in a snowstorm.  Those little fish came up and basically kissed my mask.  It was amazing!

On Friday night we went to Bingo at our neighbours church.  Bingo is the only church sanctioned gambling in Samoa and is taken very seriously.  This particular Bingo was to benefit the church's youth group and Celine, who invited us, explained that she had to play.  If someone from the family doesn't show up each week, they have to pay the church 60 tala.  I've never really played Bingo in English before, so you'd better believe it was difficult in Samoan!  I was really dredging the back of my brain to remember my numbers.  And it all went so fast!  Suffice to say, I didn't win...

We stayed at a resort one night to see how the other half live.  And also because we had to pick up my friend's other friends who were arriving the next day.  The resort we picked was close to the airport, but when we got there, the room they'd given us was not at all what we'd asked for.  Thankfully they were willing to refund us and we managed to get into another resort down the road.  The amazing power of a sob story...  And yes, we did lounge by the pool.

We also went and saw the To Sua Trench.  This wasn't open to the public when I lived in Samoa as a kid, so it was a whole new experience for me.  I didn't go down the ladder to swim in the pool because it was raining and everything was super slippery.  The photo probably doesn't do it justice, but the water here is 30m deep and crystal clear.  It's quite beautiful.

And there you go!  Highlights from my holiday.  I also caught up with some people I knew in Samoa 41 years ago, which was probably the best thing.  So odd to see these children all grown up!  Everyone was so friendly and so nice, which was also very different.  Back when I was a kid people were pretty rude to palagis (white people), but everyone was very helpful and very nice, even when telling us we couldn't go where we wanted to go.  And so interested in the fact we'd come back to Samoa after so long.

I'll definitely go back again.  I can't actually believe I left it so long, given how close Samoa is to New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

I'm baaaaacck

 Just a quick note to let you know I'm back, alive and well.  Just swamped at work catching up after a week away.

Will write a longer post on Friday to tell you about my adventures in Samoa.

For now, I'll just leave you with this picture I took just before I left...  I wish I could say every day was like this, but unfortunately that was not the case.  It rained a lot, but because it was so warm, the rain was not really a problem.

Unlike here where this morning it was 6 degrees and the rain was drilling me horizontally in the southerly wind.


Friday, July 14, 2023

Celebrate the Small Things 14-7-23


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!  A long weekend.  And then I go on vacation.

When I planned my vacation I didn't realize Friday was Matariki (the Māori New Year) and therefore a long weekend, but how good it that?  So this weekend I plan to really put my head down and work on Guide Us.  I would love to have this revision entirely finished before I go so I can come back with fresh eyes and polish it up.  I was pretty positive I'd be able to do that, but I had one of those annoying revelations that an entire chapter I added recently was wrong and I have to go back and make that chapter into something else to make the next part of the story make sense.  Or move a major event elsewhere, which could also work, but will require lots of other changes to make it fit.

So, that's my long weekend.  Along with getting ready to leave the country on Monday.  It's been ten years since I went overseas (which seems insane considering how much travelling I did prior to that) and I'm hoping I remember how to travel!

So the blog will be dark next week.  I'll be back after 25 July with some stories from Samoa.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Books I''ve Read: The Gifted Son

Set in Sydney, this multi-POV book tells the story of a family fracturing after a single punch lands the youngest child in hospital with a spinal injury.  

On the last day of high school, Jamie is in good spirits, looking forward to a summer of surfing with his mates.  But a prank gone wrong leads him to the hospital instead, with a spinal injury that means it's unlikely he'll ever walk again.

As Jamie struggles to overcome the pain and come to terms with a very different future than the one he expected for himself, his family strains at the seams, possibly unable to survive the strain this stroke of bad luck has set in motion.

Mother Lillian is fiercely protective of her baby.  She's certain that positive thinking will bring a miracle.  She starts clipping stories out of magazines and newspapers about miracles and manages to convince herself and Jamie that the one common theme all these people have is their goodness.  Soon mother and son are throwing themselves into acts of service, certain they will be the thing to turn the tide and allow Jamie to walk again.

Meanwhile, Lillian's husband John is struggling with the failure of his business.  Things have been bad for months and he hasn't been drawing a salary for some time.  As time stretches out and he still hasn't told Lillian the truth about their finances, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell her.  The only glimmer of hope comes from a temp receptionist who seems to know a lot more about websites and design than someone in her position should.

And then there's Jamie's older sister, Kate, a driven businesswoman whose focus on her career has left little time for her to spend with Jamie.  After the accident she's wracked with guilt over this and throws herself at figuring out exactly what happened, who really was behind the punch that injured her baby brother.  She's sure Jamie's best friend Jez is lying, but she can't figure out why.

And then there's Jez, tortured by the truth he knows but can't speak up about after lying to the police about what actually happened that day.

I enjoyed this one to a point even though I found the family incredibly frustrating to spend time with.  So many of the problems they faced could have been solved if they just spoke to each other more honestly.  Or even at all.  I know an event like this is traumatic and just compounds existing stresses, but John really should have shared the financial difficulties with his wife.  If she'd known, she would not have been spending with such abandon, as if by throwing money at causes she could buy a cure for Jamie.

And Jamie never really came alive for me.  He didn't have much personality on the page, so it was difficult to care too much about him.  Considering he was supposed to eb the focus of the book, he never felt like a real human being in the same way his parents or even Jez did.

So I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend this one.  It's an easy read, and certainly not a terrible book.  It's just not quite as enjoyable as I'd hoped it might be.

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

A Sydney family's picture-perfect life is upended in an unputdownable new novel from the bestselling author of The Mothers.

What if the worst day of your life is the making of you?

With two bright children, a beautiful home and a husband she's always depended on, Lillian Hogarth considers herself blessed. Until, on her son Jamie's final day of high school, he fails to come home. Hospitalised by a coward's punch, Jamie has been the victim of a muck-up day celebration that went too far.

Lillian's support is unflinching, even as her world begins to crumble. A son whose fate hangs in the balance, a teenage witness who refuses to name the one who threw the punch, and a husband who's hiding a secret that could destroy their marriage . . .

Is this the end of the Hogarth family's good luck? Or will Jamie's determination-and Lillian's love-be the making of them?

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Weekly Goals 10-7-23

 I managed to get another chunk of work done on Guide Us yesterday and added a chapter and a bit.  I keep forgetting that every time I decide I need a new bit I have to write two chapters, not just one to make the dual POV work (or find a place to add it in an existing chapter or chapters).  But I'm pretty happy with what I've done and the progress I've made.  With a 3-day weekend before I head to Samoa, I think I'll manage to get through a lot of what I want to get done.

So my goal this week is to try and finish the first pass at these revisions so I can let them rest while I'm on holiday and film festivalling.  Then I'll come back to them in August and hopefully finish up the whole thing.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, July 7, 2023

Celebrate the small Things 7-7-23


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 have a few things I have to do this weekend, so I'm not going to be able to spend as much time on Guide Us as I did last week, but I have put a big chunk of Sunday afternoon aside to work on it.  I think I have two or three new scenes I need to add (and figure out where to add them) and a few more little things to smooth things out.  Next weekend is a long one because of the Matariki public holiday on Friday, so I'm hoping to get the first draft of my revisions done then.

It has been a busy week at work and next week is where the insanity really begins.  Especially since I'm away on holiday the following week.  Much needed though!  Especially since the Film Festival starts the week I get back.  I've booked my tickets (only 16 films - I was super restrained) and am expecting a busy, busy couple of weeks post-holiday.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, July 4, 2023



The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG are PJ Colando, Kim Lajevardi, Gwen Gardner, Pat Garcia, and Natalie Aguirre!

This month's question is an interesting one - and one every writer gets asked all the time!

99% of my story ideas come from dreams. Where do yours predominantly come from?

There is no one place I get my ideas.  And I don't think I've ever started a story based on a dream, but I certainly have dreamed in the worlds of my books.  Once I even dreamed in one of my character's heads. That was a weird one!

But ideas can come from anywhere.  An Unstill Life came from a newspaper article I read about a school forbidding same sex couples from attending the leavers' ball.  Stumped came from meeting the subject of a documentary I screened at one of the cinemas I ran. The Sidewalk's Regrets also came from a documentary, this one about a musician friend of mine.  There was one line someone said that sparked the book, but later, I couldn't find the line again. 

Chasing the Taillights started off as an adult book about something very different, but when I started writing it, I found that I needed to explore why these two characters had the relationship they did and I ended up writing about them 15 years earlier instead.  One day I might go back and actually write the book I initially planned to write...

The book I'm working on now is a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet (very loosely, and I mean really, really loosely now), but also has parts that were inspired by a song.  And the book I wrote before this one was  sparked by a song (and by re-reading Lolita about 20 years after I first read it).  The one I have coming out this year (My Murder Year) was sparked by the political opposition to same-sex marriage.  Which makes me think I wrote the first draft of that one a really long time ago!

Often I'll read something or see something or hear something and some part of it hooks in my brain.  It will rattle around in there for a while, sometimes bumping into some other random idea trapped there, and when I'm lucky, these ideas colliding will become the beginning of a story.  Other times they just fizzle out along the way.

Sometimes the idea isn't big enough to be a whole book, so I write a short story instead.  And there have been occasions where that short story has been the starting point for a book.  But that doesn't happen that often.  Usually those ideas are smaller and perfectly suited for a short story.

I'm always fascinated to find out how other people get their ideas, so please, share in the comments!

Sunday, July 2, 2023

Weekly Goals 3-7-23

I got a lot of work done on Guide Us over the weekend and there are now four new or part new chapters in the first part of the book.  I've also managed to join the new stuff up with what I had before pretty well, I think.  There are a few more changes I need to make later in the book, and possibly another new scene or two, but I think the really big stuff is done now.  I just need to do a bit of tweaking and changing to make the new stuff I've written bed in properly.

I think I'm on track to finish this work before I go away.  Especially since there's a public holiday before I leave.

So this week my goal is just to keep up the momentum and keep going on it.  I know I'm busier next weekend, so finding a few hours to do the work is important, both next weekend and during the week.

What are your goals this week?