Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Insecure Writers' Support Group - May

 It's the first Wednesday in May so it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Groups!

The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Victoria Marie Lees, Kim Lajevardi, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

This month's question is a very relevant one!

How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?

Distractions are all too common, everywhere, whether it's when I'm doing my own writing, or trying to perfectly word an email or funding application at work.  The trick is to try and minimize them as much as possible so you can make the most out of the limited writing time available.

For example, I sometimes take a day off work just to write.  To make sure I get the most out of this day, I don't write at home where there are always chores that need attending to.  I'll go to the library with my laptop and find a nice quiet corner in which to park myself for the day.  I turn the wifi off too, so emails and notifications won't come through and distract me from my work.

I also turn the sound off on my phone no I don't hear those notifications coming through either.  I can look at that stuff when I take a break every few hours.  There's unlikely to be anything so urgent it can't wait a few hours, right?

So that's how I try to keep distraction at bay.  But once you have been distracted, how to get focused back on what you're doing?  Sometimes I  accept that it's time to take a break and use that break in concentration to get up, walk around, take a few minutes away from the page I'm working on.  But then I get back to it.  Maybe I have to go back and read a paragraph or two of what comes before the place I got distracted to find my way back into the flow.  Sometimes I can just dive back in, but I usually need a little intro back into the world of my story.

Listening to music can help keep distraction at bay.  I find I can't listen to music with lyrics I understand while I'm writing because they distract me from the words I'm writing, but music without lyrics can help block the outside world, or music with lyrics in languages I don't speak.  I have a few classical music playlists that I like to listen to when writing, one which is very big and dramatic, and one that is more serene.  I've also been listening to a lot of music from the Middle East recently, with lyrics in Urdu or Arabic.

At the end of the day, how big the distraction is will have an effect on how easy it is to get back into the writing flow.  If you take a phone call and it's something you can just brush off or deal with later, that's one thing.  Getting a call from your kid's teacher asking you to come and see them after school can be more distracting because then you'll be thinking about that and wondering what the hell the kid has done now,

Sometimes I just have to accept that I'm not going to get back to that chapter today.  My brain has moved away from the story and is now focused on  something else.  I like to make sure I leave each writing session with something slightly unfinished on a page to guide me to where I need to start next time, so stopping midway through something is often helpful for me.  I never stop writing for the day at the end of a chapter, for example.  I will always write at least a couple of sentences of the next one before I close the laptop so I'm not staring at a blank page when I open it again.  

Getting distracted to the point I have to stop for the day often leaves me mid-sentence or mid-paragraph - the perfect place to pick up again next time.

How do you deal with distraction?

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Weekly Goals 29-4-24

 Despite having a long weekend, I didn't manage to get any writing or querying done.  I spent the whole four days working on this other job instead.  I'm not quite finished with it either,  but close.   I think I'm going to need to put in a few hours next weekend to finish it off.

So I'm not setting myself any writing goals this week (again).  If I have time, I'll try to send out a few more queries, but we go live with our next event at work on 9 May, so I'm not expecting to have a lot of time until that finishes in June.  But we'll see how we go...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 26-4-24


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!

Actually, it's kind of felt like the weekend since Wednesday because Thursday was a holiday.  And I took the Friday off too so I have a 4-day weekend.  Not that I'm relaxing and doing nothing or going away or writing.  No, I'm using this long weekend to do another job for a bit of extra cash.  And it's going well so far, I think.  I'm not sure I'll get through all the work I have to do this weekend, but I will certainly have broken the back of it so I won't have a lot to do the next couple of weeks.

Which is good, because we're about to go live with our next event at the beginning of May and things will get super busy for me again at work.

I don't know if I'm ever going to have time to write again...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Books I've Read: A Tale of Two Princes

This was kind of a silly book, but one that I kind of enjoyed, despite the ridiculousness of its premise.  

Basically, it's kind of a Parent Trap story.  But set against the rather preposterous idea of Canada suddenly having its own monarchy - known throughout the book at the Maple Crown.  Seriously, the number of times maple was mentioned in this book was ridiculous.  It's enough to give you diabetes!

Edward is the Crown Prince of Canada, just waiting for his eighteenth birthday and his investiture as the heir to the Canadian throne.  Weeks before the big event, a chance meeting with a stranger who looks remarkably like him leads to the discovery that Edward has a long-lost twin, Billy.  And Billy is a minute older, so is in fact heir to the throne.

Obviously this is not ideal for Edward, especially when Billy blurts out that he's gay in his first public outing, something Edward has been keeping hidden for years for fear of tarnishing the Crown's reputation.  As his resentment grows, Edward plots to sabotage his newfound brother by trying to turn public opinion against him.

On his part, Billy is overwhelmed with discovering he's a prince.  He's spent his life on a Montana ranch and believes it's his destiny to stay there and keep it running for his recently deceased father.  All of a sudden he finds himself in the global spotlight and his every move is being scrutinised by the press.  And his family's moves too...

As the big day gets closer, it becomes increasingly uncertain which head will eventually wear the crown.

To enjoy this book, you really need to just accept the ridiculousness of the Canadian monarchy.  It's not explained that well - one of the Queen's sons had an affair with a Canadian commoner and the press hounded them out of town - and its value and structure within the Canadian political system is never clear.  But if you can just believe that that exists, you can just move on and enjoy the story.

The book is told in dual POV, but the two boys' voices are a little too alike and I found I had to keep checking back to see whose section I was reading.  Edward, who was brought up Canadian, speaks French and sprinkles a few words en francais into his sections, but that's not quite enough to different backgrounds and life experiences.

Billy has a precocious younger sister who vlogs on social media and a genderqueer bestie with dreams of becoming a fashion designer - both these things are important to the plot, but the characters are fully fleshed out enough to feel like they exist for any reason other than the parts they play in the drama.

Edward has a best friend who is out and proud and a girlfriend who is certain she's going to marry a prince and secure the social currency she's sure she deserves.

I think this book is very flawed in so many ways, but I actually didn't hate it.  It made me smile a lot because it was just so silly and the shenanigans got more and more ridiculous the closer we got to the princes' big moment.

So I'm torn about recommending it.  On the one hand, it's kind of a fun romp, but on another, it's just really not that good.

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

Will these long-lost twin princes be able to take on high school, coming out, and coronations together—or will this royal reunion quickly become a royal mess?

Edward Dinnissen, Crown Prince of Canada, loves getting the royal treatment at his exclusive Manhattan private school and living in a fancy mansion on Park Avenue. But despite living a royal life of luxury, Edward is unsure how to tell his parents, his expectant country, and his adoring fans that he’s gay.

Billy Boone couldn’t be happier: he loves small-town life and his family’s Montana ranch, and his boyfriend is the cutest guy at Little Timber High. But this out-and-proud cowboy is finally admitting to himself that he feels destined for more . . .

When Edward and Billy meet by chance in New York City and discover that they are long-lost twins, their lives are forever changed. Will the twin princes—“twinces”— be able to take on high school, coming out, and coronations together? Or will this royal reunion quickly become a royal disaster?

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Weekly Goals 22-4-24

 Not a lot of change to my goals this week from what they have been the last couple of weeks.  Try and get a few more queries sent out for Guide Us and try to find a few safe minutes to write something.  Anything.  Flash fiction, poetry, short story...

Not sure how I'll get on with any of that, but we'll give it a shot.  If I don't get the extra job, then I'll have some time over the four-day weekend for writing work,  But if I do get the gig, then I'll have to do that instead.  As much as I hate to say it, at this point, a paying gig is more important than my own writing which earns me about enough for a cup of coffee each quarter.

What are your goals this week? 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 19-4-24

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 felt like a very long week this week, so I'm looking forward to having a weekend.  Fingers crossed there is no drama this week and I can actually focus on the things I need and want to do.  Like going up the coast to see my friend and maybe getting a few more queries sent out.  I've had one more rejection this week, from one of the very first queries I sent out.  Some of these agents take a long time to respond!

I may have picked up a little extra gig doing some funding assessments - not exactly the most fun job in the world, but at this stage, some extra money won't go amiss, so I'm prepared to sacrifice some of my time.  I have a four-day weekend next week because Thursday is ANZAC Day and I've taken Friday off too, so if I get selected for a panel, I'll try and get through the bulk of the applications over those four days.  I've applied for this fund in the past, so I know what the applications are like and don't think each one will take more than 45 minutes maximum to get through.  I hope, anyway...

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Books I've Read: Alondra

I wouldn't call myself a wrestling fan, but something about the description of this book made me pick it up at the library the other day.  Maybe because you just don't often see stories about girls wanting to wrestle.  I think the setting also had something to do with the appeal.

Alonda is seventeen and it's summer.  It's hot.  Every day outside her apartment window she hears a trio of kids wresting in the park and longs to join them; she's a massive wrestling fan.  After covertly watching them for a while, she decides to talk to them and ask to join.  They need a fourth to even up the numbers so it just makes sense.  But Alondra is painfully shy and walks past time and time again without managing to say a word.

When she finally works up the courage to speak, the trio are not initially impressed, but Alonda sticks with it and shows them what she can do.  That impresses them enough to ask her to join them and before long Alondra is tightly enmeshed into their group.  She starts dating King, the self-proclaimed leader of the group, but she can't help looking at Lexi, her excitement growing each time they connect in the ring.

Over the course of the long, hot summer, this group of friends will wresting with each other in the ring and with their feelings out of it.

I enjoyed this book.  All the characters were well drawn and distinct and had their own lives, separate from Alonda's.  And as Alonda's confidence in herself grew, as she became more comfortable with herself and her understanding of her bisexuality, she became a way more interesting character.

I liked that the book didn't solely focus on Alonda and her understanding of herself, but showed realistically how someone's life can be made up of multiple parts and problems.  Alonda's home life with her guardian Teresa was shown as well and given as much weight as any other part of the story.

Throughout the wresting season the group develop, Alonda is searching for the perfect character, and when she comes up with it, it makes perfect sense.

This was a quick, easy read - I read the whole thing while I was waiting for the electrician to reconnect the power at my house on Sunday.  I'd recommend it, even if you're not into wresting.

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

A contemporary YA debut from award-winning playwright Gina Femia, Alondra is a coming-of-age story of friendship and romance, about a bisexual teen girl and her friends wrestling their way through the summer--sometimes on the playgrounds of Coney Island, sometimes with their feelings and at home.

Sixteen-year-old Alonda loves professional wrestling. So when she meets a group of teens with aspirations of wrestling fame in her Coney Island neighborhood, she couldn’t be happier. So as the ragtag team works to put on a show to remember, Alonda sheds her old self behind and becomes Alondra ―the Fearless One. But with her conflicting feelings for King, the handsome leader of their group, and Lexi, the girl with the beautiful smile, Alonda has to ask herself: can she be as fearless outside of the ring as she is inside it?

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Weekly Goals 15-4-24

 I had a rather frustrating weekend in which I didn't manage to get anything much done, and almost all my plans went out the window after our power suddenly went out on Saturday night.  And can you get hold of anyone at the power company, the lines company or any electricians on a Saturday night?  No...

So  after spending a Saturday night in the dark, all my Sunday plans went out the window while I tried to get the power back on.  It is now, but it took all day and the bill is enough to give anyone a heart attack. 

Long story short, I didn't get any writing work done over the weekend.  Again.

So my goal this week is to get back to querying Guide Us, and making a bit of a plan for what I'm going to work on next.  I have a 4-day weekend coming up, and that would be the perfect time to kickstart something new.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 12-4-24


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 planned this week, mainly catching up with friends which I'm looking forward to.  

I got some feedback on my query package from a professional, and they think it's great, so I guess I have to get back to querying.  I haven't had any more rejections this week, but neither have I had any requests.  No news is good news, they say...

And that's about it for celebrating this week.  What's been going on for you?

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Books I've Read: Ryan and Avery

I picked this up at the library because the cover was cute and I've enjoyed some of David Leviathan's other books.  It wasn't a huge story and I probably will have forgotten most of it in a week or two, but it was a quick, fun read over the weekend.

Told out of sequence, the book follows Ryan and Avery who met at a queer prom through their first ten dates.  The two boys live in different towns, a few hours apart, which adds another layer of complication to their relationship.  There's also the fact Ryan's parents are really nt okay with him being queer and do not encourage the relationship at all.

In contrast, Avery's parents are very accepting, and welcome Ryan into their home whenever he wants to be there.

Over the course of these ten dates the boys learn about each other, their families and how to be a couple as they juggle school, friendships, cast parties, jobs and the other minutae of daily life.

I didn't;t love the book, but it was a pleasant way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon on my deck.  It's light for the most part, but does have some serious moments, particularly around Ryan's relationship with his family.  Luckily he has a very caring and open aunt who he can rely on even when his parents are being ridiculous.

It's not my favourite book by this author, but it has all the things that make David's books his.

So I'd recommend it, I'm just not screaming about it from the rooftops.

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

From the New York Times bestselling author of EVERY DAY, this is a queer love story for the ages--told over the course of a couple's first ten dates.

When a blue-haired boy (Ryan) meets a pink-haired boy (Avery) at a dance--a queer prom--both feel an inexplicable but powerful connection. Follow them through their first ten dates as they bridge their initial shyness and fall in love--through snowstorms, groundings, meeting parents (Avery's) and not (Ryan's), cast parties, heartbreak, and every day and date in between.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 5-4-24


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

What am I celebrating this week?

I know it was a short week, but I'm still glad it's the weekend.  I don't have a lot planned, so looking forward to doing some reading and writing.  I've been a little obsessed over the last few weeks with a really old story I wrote - one of the first novels I ever finished.  I'm really not sure if there is anything I can salvage from it, but the characters keep whispering to me and I'm wondering if there is something there I can work with.  

It's a book that never really worked because it spans two time periods - the present where the MC is in her first year of college, and the past where she's 10.  So it's not really YA, not really MG, not really adult... I'm wondering about losing the college storyline and approaching the story from the past from the POV of one of the other characters who is a teenager.  I've read a few books where the narrator of the story is not the MC, but someone else who observes that character's journey and I'm thinking that might be something to play around with.

Maybe I'm just having all the feels from having read Bridge of Clay again....  What a book that is.  I knew I loved it when I read it a few year back, but I think I've loved it even more the second time around.

Also celebrating having sent out a new batch of Guide Us queries - only one rejection so far...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

IWSG - April

 It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group

The awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!

This month's question is an interesting one: 

How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed?

I have been blogging since June 2010, almost 14 years now.  Back then, blogging was something most writers did and it seemed like one of the things I needed to do if I was going to become a published author.   So I did it.   And I visited a lot of other blogs, took part in blog hops, competitions and guest-blogged on other peoples' blogs while inviting other writers to guest here.  It was quite the community!

These days, far fewer writers seem to blog and the community of bloggers and people reading blogs seems to have shrunk.  I also write for a group blog, and even that very well established blog seems to have a diminishing number of readers.  Fewer people comment on posts.  

I feel like a lot of the activity that used to happen on blogs is now happening on social media.  The problem is, there are so many different channels when it comes to social media, and being across them all is very time consuming.

And the writing is different.  On social media you don't have the same real estate you have in a blog post.  You can't get in depth on anything.  Posts with too much text get scrolled past without being read.  You have to have images or even video to be really seen.  And you're relying on algorithms to show your posts to the right people.

Plus, I really don't enjoy social media much. 

So I'm still here, blogging, probably to a void most of the time.  But I don't care.  This is my spot where I can write about what I want to write about.  If people choose to visit and read what I write, that's great.  If they don't, I'll probably still be here, posting my weekly book review, my goals for the week ahead and celebrating each week's small wins.  

Do you still blog regularly?  Do you still enjoy it?