Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Books I've Loved: None of the Above

With having been away at the beach, I've done a ton of reading in the last couple of weeks, and some of the books I've read have been really enjoyable.  

Like this one which I've been wanting to read since I first heard about it, and have been waiting and waiting for the library to stock.  When they didn't, I bit the bullet and bought a copy of my own.

It is the story of a girl called Kristin who is elected Homecoming Queen, is a rising track star and has a wonderful boyfriend.  But when she and Sam decide to take their relationship to the next level, sex isn't the wonderful, pleasurable expression of love she was expecting.  A second attempt isn't much better, so Kristin decides to go and see a doctor.

What she discovers about herself is frightening: she's intersex.  While outwardly she looks like a girl, she doesn't have a womb.  Oh, and she does have testes, she's just never noticed them because they're inside her.

The book explores how Kristin navigates this new discovery about herself and how it changes her preception of herself.  It also explores the reactions of the people around her as they struggle to understand (and largely fail) what it means to be intersex.

I really enjoyed this book and hope it becomes widely read in schools and beyond so people can get a better understanding of what being intersex is, and how painful it can be to discover something like that about yourself at a time when you're already fighting to find your true identity on so many other levels.

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

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex... and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

What if everything you knew about yourself changed in an instant?

When Kristin Lattimer is voted homecoming queen, it seems like another piece of her ideal life has fallen into place. She's a champion hurdler with a full scholarship to college and she's madly in love with her boyfriend. In fact, she's decided that she's ready to take things to the next level with him.

But Kristin's first time isn't the perfect moment she's planned—something is very wrong. A visit to the doctor reveals the truth: Kristin is intersex, which means that though she outwardly looks like a girl, she has male chromosomes, not to mention boy "parts."

Dealing with her body is difficult enough, but when her diagnosis is leaked to the whole school, Kristin's entire identity is thrown into question. As her world unravels, can she come to terms with her new self?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Weekly Goals 15-1-18

I'm back!

We had a glorious 10 days in Kaiteriteri where the sun shone most of the time.  I swam everyday bar one, and did a lot of hiking and mountain biking as well.  The last two days were pretty wet, but I managed to squeeze a swim into one during a break in the weather, and a 20km bike ride into the other as the weather cleared.  You should have seen how muddy we were when we got back from that one!  Some of the puddles on th track were knee-deep...

I got back from the beach last night, and am straight back to work this morning, so just trying to catch up on everything I've missed while I've been largely out of internet contact.  If I owe you something, I promise, it's coming in the next few days...

So that's what my goal is this week: to catch up on all those unfinished little bits and pieces and follow up on things I started and have left dangling.

The kids are still away for another week, so I'm also hoping my partner and I can catch a few movies before they get back.  During the year we very rarely get the opportunity to get out together, so this is a good chance to have a couple of date nights without having to worry about babysitting.

What are your goals this week?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Just a quick note to let you all know I'm away for the next 10 days and the blog will also be on holiday.

We're making our annual trek to the beach house and internet is sketchy if available at all.  So if you need me, you can email, but I may not reply as quickly as I usually would.

Regular posts will resume on Monday 15 January.

Play nicely together while I'm gone.

And just to make you all sinfully jealous, here's where I'm going...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Yearly Goals 1-1-18

Dear Me,

Can’t quite believe it’s 2018 already; it feels like five minutes ago I was writing my 2017 goals. Not that I did so well with those…

I feel like I was probably too ambitious with my goals last year and set myself unrealistic targets in terms of the amount of writing I can actually achieve.  So this year I’m going to be a little less ambitious.  My job is intense and busy and I often just don’t have anything left in the tank at the end of the day.  I didn’t even meet my reading goal for 2017, which is unheard of for me.  I usually go way over my target.  Okay, 180 books may have been too many, but I also think I read a lot more really long books this year too, and that compounded the issue.

So, 2018.  What do I want to achieve?

I have a few more books that are ready to go out, so I hope to publish at least one book in 2018, if not two.   I like working with my publisher, despite their rather limited distribution. Doing the publicity and promotion is challenging, but I’m learning more each time, so I hope to have figured out the best things to do for the least money as I keep publishing.  I also hope to begin developing a fan base, something you can’t really do when you only have one book available.

I plan to revise SHOOK to take the various agents’ feedback into account.  And I’d like to finish one or both the books I started during 2017’s NaNo.  I may even revisit my 2016 NaNo book to see if I actually like anything about it anymore.

I would like to complete at least one new title in 2018.  It feels like over the last couple of years I’ve started a lot of books, but somehow haven’t managed to finish anything.  2018 is the year I actually finish something.  Maybe even two or three somethings…  But let’s not be too ambitious.

In other, non-writing areas, I plan to exercise more.  This year I’ve made it to the gym once a week most weeks, which is hopeless.  I am determined that in 2018 I will make it to the gym at least twice a week in my lunchbreak as well as my usual Saturday morning class. 

With both the kids growing up rapidly, I would also like to try and do something with my partner at least once a week.  Something other than doing the weekly grocery shop which has become our date night since we moved to the new house.

And finally, I want to be more social on social media again.  When I first used Twitter I made friends with lots of people and enjoyed really engaging with them.  Since starting my new job three years ago,  my time for non-work-related social media has been much more limited and I miss the connections I used to have with people.  I plan to use my commuting time much more productively this year and socialize on social media more.

As always, I’ll check in on these goals around the middle of the year, and again at the end to see how I’m tracking.

What are your goals for 2018?

Sunday, December 31, 2017

End-of-year Check In

Each year I write myself a letter on or around 1 January to outline my goals for the year ahead. I publish this on the blog to keep myself accountable, and check in mid-year to see how I'm tracking, and again at the end of the year.

It's time for that end-of-year check-in on my 2017 goals, ahead of writing my new ones for 2018.

The original letter is in black normal type, my June/July check in in black itallics, and my end of year comments in red. Let's see how I got on, shall we?

Dear Me,

2017 feels like it is going to be a year of change. This early on, it’s difficult to know if those changes will be positive or negative, so I am heading into the new year with a certain amount of uncertainty hanging over my head. I’m trying to see this as a good thing. Change doesn’t have to be bad. Often it’s good to get kicked out of a rut or comfort zone and forced to challenge yourself. But it can be terrifying and uncertainty is always unnerving.

Well, there sure has been change! My agent and I parted ways early in the year, I've bought and sold a house and moved, we have kittens and a new car… I must've been prescient or something back in January!

Nothing much more has changed since June/July, but I feel like the whole year has been about adjusting to the changes and becoming re-settled into my new reality.  And being in that state of flux isn't the best place to be when trying to be creative as well as winning at life.

One thing I am certain about is my love for writing, and as my productivity is something I can control, I will focus my goals for the upcoming year in that direction rather than on the things I have little or no control over.

I am just over 50K into the novel I started during NaNo and my first goal is to finish that. It’s kind of a mess, so I know it will need a lot of work, but to do that work, I have to finish writing it. I hope to get this done by the end of February or early in March.

Nope. Haven't even opened the file for that book. I'm terrible… But that said, I have been busy with moving house and working on a ghostwriting project that just kind of fell into my lap. So there hasn't been a lot of time to work on that NaNo book, or anything much else.

Still haven't looked at that one.  There are SO MANY almost finished, or half finished manuscripts hanging out in my hard drive.  One day I will have to read through them all and decide which ones might be worth continuing with, and which should be buried forever in hard-drive hell.
I have a lot of manuscripts hanging around my hard drive in various stages of finshed-ness. Once I have completed the ugly first draft of the NaNo book, I plan to dig out a couple of the best almost-finished or not-quite-there novels and get them polished up to where I feel they need to be. I know there are at least two I actually quite like, but got kind of lost in the chaos of editing and revising and writing new shiny things.

I have done this. I have one of those projects just about ready to send out. I just need to find the time to do a final polish on it.

I actually did finish that one (SHOOK) and sent it out to a couple of agents.  Feedback was positive, but everyone seems to feel one of the two voices is more distinct and interesting than the other.  So I will have to revise again to make the whole story from the one POV instead of having the dual narrative it has been since I conceived the story.

I imagine that will take me until about June.

I plan to do Camp NaNo in June and attempt to turn a series of short stories I have written about a single family and their beach house into a novel. This will be a real challenge because the narrator in these stories is both nameless and genderless. It’s challenging enough to deal with that in a 3000 word short story, so attempting a novel in that voice will be a real test for me. But I’m pretty excited about it. I just need to think more about how to structure the novel and whether to include the original short stories as part of the book, or to start from scratch, maybe referencing them in some way.

Nope again! No Camp NaNo for me. The nature of ghostwriting is that I can't commit to writing a certain amount in a period of time because I have to rely on someone else to feed me the story. 

Those stories are still hanging around in my head and wanting to be a novel.  Earlier in the year I applied for a writers' grant to write this book, thinking that if I got it, I'd be able to afford to work a 4-day week and spend a full day each week writing.  Unfortunately I didn't get the grant.  But there will be other opportunities.  And even if I don't get a grant, I've written all my other books while working full time, so there is no reason why I can't keep on writing in the early mornings, nights and weekends.

Once I’ve completed the draft of the beach house book, I will revise the NaNo book. By then I ought to have had enough time away that I can see it clearly and will be able to revise it effectively. And my awesome critique group will help.

Well, since I haven't finished writing that book, I don't think my critique group are going to be helping me revise it. Damn! I've failed hard on these goals this year. Harder than I usually do!

Depending on what else happens throughout the year, I will also try to do NaNo in November. Some years the timing doesn’t work for me because of editing or revising, but it is such a great motivator. I have some other ideas creeping around the back of my head, none of which are ready to be put to paper, but by November hopefully one will be…

Maybe. We'll see… I'd like to do it, but it's too early to know if I'll have space in my schedule or if I'll have an idea burning to get out.

I did do NaNo, but for the first time I didn't win.  I had edits to do for my publisher that came in a week into NaNo and even though they were small edits and didn't take me long to turn around, they were enough to knock me off course with NaNo.  I finished with just over 30K written and a book I should have started 11 chapters later than I did.  I will go back to that story in the New Year.  And the book I started NaNo with before changing tack and starting a second book on about day 4...  Yeah, my writing this year has been a mess.

I will attempt, as I do every year, to be more active in my critique group. I tend to have bursts of activity, but I really am not as good as I ought to be when it comes to reviewing for them. I will aim to be much better this year!

Again, not so hot in this area. But that is partly because I can't share the ghostwriting book with the group because I'm bound by a non-disclosure agreement until the book is finished.

The critique group has largely lain dormant this year.  We have all grown so much as writers since we started in the group, and with publishing schedules to meet, the way the group works isn't ideal for any of us anymore.  I'm not sure it will continue in this form in 2018 or not.  The group is also sorely missing one of the founding members who has been struggling with health issues in the second half of the year.  She was always the most reliable and generous reviewer and updater, and without her, it's just not the same.

And as always, I will aim to be fitter and healthier. I have had a great start to 2017 in that respect, but I know that once I’m back at work and the kids are clamouring for dinner as soon as I walk in the door, going to the gym will end up being a weekend-only thing again. I will try to go at least one time during the week as well, and will continue to go walking during my lunchbreak as well.

I'm not doing too badly here. The new house is further from the supermarket than the old one, so I get some extra walking in that way, and the gym is further away too, so I have to ride my bike to get there. I'm probably not getting quite as much exercise as I should, but I'm not too far off.

Having been to the gym five times this week, I'm feeling very virtuous.  But once work starts up again, and the crazy hours start creeping in, I'm sure I'll be back to my one-day-a-week schedule.  Although I'm determined to make myself go in my lunchbreak at least two days a week.

Both the boys have important years at school ahead of them, so I need to be more involved with both their schoolwork this year. It’s difficult because neither of them want me looking at their stuff, but I need to keep on top of what they are doing, so I will make sure I check in on their schoolwork at least once a week, if not more.

Working on it. Neither of them really want me checking in on them, but I do my best to stay involved and talk to them about what they are doing and learning.

Both of them finished at their schools this year and will be moving on in 2018, one to intermediate and the other high school (surely I'm not old enough to have a son in high school) and are looking forward to it.  They've both done reasonably well, although I can't help thinking a little more hard work from both of them would have given them better results.  We shall see how things go in their new schools.  I have a feeling both are going to get a little bit of a shock at what is expected of them...

And that’s about it for 2017. I will pop back in June or early July to see how I’m tracking with these, and again at the end of the year…

That's what this is! And boy have I failed in a spectacular fashion. But I'm not unhappy about it. Life likes to chuck a few curve-balls, and this year seems to be my turn to face them. Fingers crossed the work I'm doing will be worthwhile and progress my career in some way.

Well, I'm pretty philisophical about these goals.  They seemed like a good idea when I wrote them, but things change.  And while I didn't do everything I thought I wanted to do, I have published two books this year and both have been getting a pretty good response.  Reviews are good, even if sales appear to be a little light.  I haven't recieved my royalty statmements for the fourth quarter yet, so it will be interesting when that shows up and I can see how many copies of An Unstill Life actually have sold.  I'm pretty sure it's more than what Novel Rank is showing me...

Here's looking at 2018 and setting some new, possibly more realistic goals.

Happy New Year y'all!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Celebrate the Small Things 29-12-17

This post is part of Lexa Cain's bloghop, Celebrate the Small Things. Head on over there to join up!

What am I celebrating this week?

I have had a wonderful week off, seeing family and friends, cleaning the house, reading, eating and generally relaxing.  I've even been to the gym every day which has left me feeling great, albeit a little sore!

STUMPED has a whole bunch of great reviews on Amazon.  Check them out if you feel like it...  I heartily reccommend Hidden Gems if you're looking for ARC reviewers.  Definitely the best $25 I've spent so far on any book promo.

We're heading to the beach house on Wednesday, so I'm trying to get all the chores done before I go.  I've cleaned all the bedrooms so far, and the pantry.  Today I'm tackling the fridge.  The ravenous teenager has polished off all the leftovers from Christmas dinner, so it's empty enough to attempt now.

 What are you celebrating this week?

Monday, December 25, 2017

Weekly Goals 25-12-17

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate.  Happy Holidays to all of you who don't...

The big day is over here in New Zealand, and I survived my family descending en masse and cooking my first turkey in about 20 years (brining is the key, people).

Today is my friend Christina's birthday, so a new round of celebration is in order this evening.  We had plans to enjoy the balmy summer sun in the beer garden at a local pub, but it's chilly and rather damp today. Not that I'm complaining.  It's the first significant rain we've had in 48 days, so much needed for both gardens and the reservoirs.

The rest of this week is going to be all about relaxing and housework.  I like to start the new year with the house nice and clean, and it's especially important this year because I have a colleague coming to housesit and cat-sit while we are at the beach house.  So after tomorrow's trip to the gym, I'm rolling up my sleeves and tackling one room to make it as spotless as possible.

I think I'll start with our bedroom because it's probably the least challenging.

What are your plans this week?