books, Uncategorized

Books of 2016

This year I set myself a goal of reading fifty books over on Goodreads (you can check out my full list here). I am just one shy of completing the goal, and so with most of the month of December still ahead of me, I know I’m going to make it.

I’ve read some amazing books, and some not so great ones, and looking back at that list it feels like a lifetime ago that I read some of those titles. Wow, has this year been long and challenging or what?

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you some of my top picks because there are plenty of those and, personally, I find word-of-mouth to be the most reliable way to find books.

We’ll get the BIG ones out of the way first.

winter-finalWinter, by Marissa Meyer. This is the final book in the Lunar Chronicles series and WOW. It’s epic in both size and contents, and is the perfect ending for the series. I just adore the title character in this one, and am in awe of Meyer for the way she weaves so many plots (and fairytales) together into what is an incredible book. I can’t wait to see what she tackles next!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor – the entire series! Yup, I read through these three huge tomes in just a few months. The sheer size of the books made me nervous, but I’d heard so many fantastic things about them that I put my big girl pants on and got to it.  The third book is a hard, hard slog at some points, but totally worth it once you reach the end. I think it was a few days before I really engaged with a book again after finishing this one.

Right, into some regular sized books now huh?

Malus Domestica, by S.A. Hunt. Witches, youtubers, cats, possession, apple trees – what’s not to like? This was an engaging horror with an awesome protagonist, and some really cool secondary characters. I am very much looking forward to the next one in the series.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness. Don’t read this if you are not prepared to cry. Seriously. It’s a short book, but it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and I SOBBED. No shame in that.

viciousVicious, V.E. Schwab. I LOVED this book. The characters are awesome, the storytelling is fantastic, and it kept me gripped right through to the end. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

And lastly, non-fiction, just for fun: The Game Believes in You, Greg Toppo. If you have kids, and if you’re curious about how games can help kids to learn, curious about how so much of the world can be seen as a game, curious about education, and developments, you NEED to read this book. It totally blew my mind.

What did you read in 2016 that you’d recommend?? I’ve got a few on my list to read and/or finish, but I’d love to hear of new books!

Advertisements
Best Novella, books, Burn, change, Fantasy, friends, Kotahi Bay, Maiden mother crone, short story, Sir Julius Vogel Award, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves

Long time no blog

Hey there! I know, I know, it’s been a long time since I wrote anything here. Not because I’ve been doing nothing, but because life has been so busy lately. I mean, really busy. We’ve been away several weekends, a wedding, a homeschool camp, we’ve been down with colds for almost two weeks now, and there has been SO much going on. I can’t talk about some of it right now, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Basically, the past month or so has seen a massive shift in where my wee family is headed, and that’s been scary, sad, and exciting all at once. We’ve got what feels like a gazillion balls in the air right now, and I’m as okay with that as I can be 🙂 Doing a lot better than I had expected anyway.

Sadly, this has meant not as much writing as I’d have liked. Stress does that to me. I can anxious and can’t think creatively. It’s coming back to me now, though. I’m a bundle of ideas and am looking forward to putting some of them on paper in the next few weeks.

But first, I have to make it through the weekend! Au Contraire is coming up fast, and I am both nervous and excited about it. I am really looking forward to seeing people I don’t see nearly enough, hanging out amongst other like-minded people, talking geeky writerly stuff, and enjoying a great selection of panels and discussions. And I am nervous as fuck about convening a panel myself! On mythology, with some AMAZING authors, one of whom I’ve been a fan of for a very long time now – Juliet Marillier. I’m going to get to meet her! And then ask her questions! And omg!! How am I going to be able to speak? I just have to try not to stutter through the whole thing somehow…

I’ll also be at the At the Edge book launch directly before the mythology panel – my short story ‘Hope Lies North’ appears in it, and I am super excited to get my hands on a copy – and at the SJV’s on Sunday night as well, where all my books are finalists. I have zero expectations of winning an award myself, but I’m thrilled to be able to be there and cheer on some friends who I am sure will be picking up trophies! Fun times ahead. I am very much looking forward to heading to Wellington for a weekend that should include most of my favourite things (that aren’t my husband and kids, but I guess you can’t have everything right?).

I shall endeavour to update on a more regular basis, and hopefully soon I will have something fun to announce.

Take care!

becoming, books, Burn, editing, etherhart press, Fantasy, January, Kotahi Bay, Maiden mother crone, Uncategorized, year ahead

2016 Begins

The new year is here! While I was feeling incredibly excited about it toward the end of last year, now that it’s here, I am tired. I worked my butt off in the last days of 2015 and the first days of 2016, and now have a cold.

This is NOT going to be a ‘start the year how you mean to continue it’ year. But it does give me opportunities to practice one of this year’s goals, which is to be kinder to myself. I spent most of yesterday lying in bed, resting, and hopefully, soon I will be back to 100%.

20160104_090019Following on from last years goals, I thought I’d do something similar – nothing too specific, but goals that will get me moving in the right direction. I DO have some definites I want to tick off, but for now, I just want to paint them in broad strokes, which is another act of kindness for myself – much harder to be self-critical that way.

So, kindness. I am giving myself a heart sticker for the days when I am kind to me, whether those are small or large kindnesses. I’m also going to keep track of the days I write with stars. I fell badly out of the habit of actually writing last year, and I’m going to work on reinstating that habit in 2016 using this monthly planner thingamie. Yay!

20160104_090104I’m also going to work through my current bookshelves – both print and digital. Now that I have a bookshelf I’ve realized there are a bunch of books on there I haven’t read. Things I’ve picked up from the withdrawn section of the library, things passed along from others, things I purchased super cheap years ago and never got around to reading. I imagine there are a bunch of books I don’t even like on my shelves, so it’s time for a clear out.

PhotoGrid_1451853786930Speaking of books I’ve been given, my mother-in-law gave me Wonderbook for my birthday last year and I intend to work my way through it over the year.

In terms of publishing goals, my main focus right now is finishing the Maiden, Mother, Crone series. I’ve decided not to publish the second and third books individually, and am going to release a very pretty print omnibus once it’s all edited and ready to go. Aside from that, I’m looking to publish another two Kotahi Bay books – and anything else is icing on the cake 😉

becoming, books, Burn, challenges, change, editing, etherhart press, Fantasy, Goodreads, new zealand independent book festival, NZIBF, Sun-Touched, The Way the Sky Curves, Uncategorized

2015 Year in Review

2015 has been a massive year of ups and downs for me – mostly downs, but I think that’s changing. Despite that, I think I did pretty well with my goals for the year.

While I haven’t yet reached my ‘books read’ goal for the year, I’m pretty close, and I *think* I read more published stuff than pre-published. I did do a reasonable amount of editing work, but it was primarily for cash, and that was a nice change. After much consideration, I have decided to cut back even further on the number of clients I’ll work with in order to really give my own writing time to shine. While I love having some cash I made all on my own, and it’s meant I could cover all my costs without digging into the family income, I’ve come to realize that it’s sapping my creative energy, and that’s not good for my writing (or my mental health).

IMG_20151223_145519638I think this year has gone a long way to the ‘reconnecting with myself’ goal. It’s quite intangible, but I think people can look at me now and SEE that I am more comfortable in myself now. I got my nose re-pierced, and I dyed my hair awesome colours. The general consensus is that I should have done it years ago, and I look more’me’. Glad I’m not the only one who thinks so 😉 Though to be honest, it wouldn’t really matter if they thought that anyway – I did it for ME.

I did some other things that were a little outside my comfort zone, such as attending the Independent Book Festival in Auckland. I had a much better time than I expected, and learned that actually, I can totally be a people person when I need to be – AND enjoy it! (even if I need, like, a week off life after to recover lol).

Alongside these things I published three new pieces. Two novellas, and my first full-length novel. Sun Touched has been a long time in the making, and it’s been amazing to get it out there and have people read it. The most common thing I hear from readers is that they could barely put it down, and just had to keep reading – mission accomplished! Dad doesn’t always enjoy my stories, but he loved Sun Touched, and gave it to a friend of his to read while she recovered from a hip operation – and she is going to try and get it in at the library near her! lol

I have LOTS of hopes for 2016, but primary among those are to treat myself more kindly, give my writing the time it needs, and continue to build on the things I started this year. More on that in the new year – until then, enjoy the last of 2015, hope you had a lovely Christmas, and have a happy New Year.

A-Z challenge, authors, books, Characters, Fantasy, Kotahi Bay

L is for Lies

Little white lies. Big fat ones. Most of us tell them now and then. I try not to lie too much in my every day life, not even when my kids ask me how babies are made, or whether the tooth fairy is real, or what a cannibal is and whether I’ve ever tasted human flesh (I haven’t, for the record, but we’ve had a few conversations now about what might make someone turn to cannibalism and the cultures in which this was historically done).

But writing fiction is all about lying. About creating marvelous stories. About spinning a tale tall and wide, capturing the reader in our web and attempting to make them forget that the characters they are reading about aren’t real.

It’s about telling lies so good that you could almost believe them.

For me, the really beautiful part about telling these lies though, is that at the core there is truth. The essence of what it is to be human. The pain, the joy, the horror. The awkward moments, the precious, the ones that keep you up at night for better or worse. Within the realms of science fiction, fantasy, horror (and everything else besides) is where we get the space, the freedom, to really explore these things in a way that exceeds the daily grind, in a way that has the capacity to dig deeper, push harder, shine light into the dark places, and elevate us in ways which many may find it impossible to do otherwise. We can explore the things that scare us, the things that excite us, in a safe space, knowing that we can shut the book if we need to.

I love to write, and I love to read, and the power of the written word has always been something awe-inspiring for me. I feel pretty blessed that occasionally, I get to tell a story that touches someone, makes them laugh, or cry or feel something more than they did before reading it. That’s pretty epic.

A-Z challenge, books, Characters, Kotahi Bay

J is for Jake

JakeOne of our lifetime residents of the Bay is Jake. He is the little brother of Melody (main character in The Way the Sky Curves), but becomes the secondary main character (and love interest) in the second book in the series (Shell & Bone). Confused yet? I hope not!

Jake is… well. He’s awesome. He’s a little bit like my younger brother in some ways – wiser than he should be for his years, knows when to pry and when to leave well alone. Not afraid to call people out on their crap. I think just about all my original beta readers swooned over him which helped me make the decision to bump him up to a more prominent position in the second book – and let me tell you, Moana is more than his match! He might look a little unconventional, but he’s a good guy, if a little confused about his place in the world.

I hope you’ll love him as much as I do and can’t wait for you to meet him in the Kotahi Bay series.

A-Z challenge, books, Kotahi Bay, writing

F is for Family

Family is really important to me, so it’s no surprise really that family plays a big role in the Kotahi Bay series – and not just your typical run of the mill mum-dad-kids families either. I feel like these days diversity is increasingly important, and diversity in families should be included. Our society is one of many broken homes, adoptions, foster children, families that are not related by blood but have chosen to be families, parents of the same gender, grandparents being primary caregivers etc. There are so many combinations!

We see a range of these in my books, some functional, others not so much. I think the take away lesson though is that while some families are ones we’re born into (and may be awesome, or not so much, hell everyone is flawed right?) we’re totally capable of choosing the other people who populate our lives, who we are close too and share connections with – and sometimes, these bonds can be stronger than the ones formed by blood. Either way, whatever family you choose to include in your life, make sure they are the ones that support you, not the ones that put you down.

A-Z challenge, books, Kotahi Bay

G is for Gods

godsAcross the world there are many cultures, many religions. Some embraced, others hidden, some obscured by time and history. While New Zealand is a relatively young country in terms of how long people have been here, there has still been enough time elapsed since colonization to erode and discourage Maori beliefs and customs. Due to a primarily oral language, there is much about Maori life pre-colonization which has been lost, and knowledge of spiritual customs is one of those things that seemed to be swept away by the early missionaries to New Zealand.

I can remember even back in primary school, only hearing about Maori as being involved with the missionaries and noted the lack of stories and information about their belief system and practices before then. While we were told the Maori creation stories, and heard other legends about primarily Maui, I was curious about the (what felt like) completely missing information on the ways in which Maori interacted with these gods and their beliefs prior to colonization.

As someone with Maori heritage, this has always made me feel uncomfortable, like there were gaps in my knowledge, like those gaps were difficult to close because it seemed like the information I wanted was just not available. So I guess you could say that part of my explorations in Kotahi Bay are a way of internally resolving that lack, of finding ways to reconnect with the Maori gods through creating my own truths and interpretations of those gods. While they don’t play a direct role in the stories for the most part, their presence is felt in the world through their children, and the essence of them is certainly there. What I feel to be their essence, grounded in their connectivity to the world in which we live in, from the sea to the sky, to the harvest fields and the depths of the forest, animals and plants alike.

I’ve actually used the creation story as a basis for the overarching plotline in the series, so if you go and read it, you might get some ideas – I am certainly not going to spell it out for you 😉

I’ll be introducing some of the gods who are connected with my series in future posts in a little more depth. Not all of them make an appearance, but a good portion of them do.

A-Z challenge, books, Kotahi Bay, New Zealand

E is for Edgy

The characters that populate Kotahi Bay are a mixed bunch, from all walks of life. They have their unique quirks and traits, and as much as I hate buzz-words, I think that the stories contained within the series probably fall into the realm of ‘edgy’.

What do I mean by edgy? Well, the characters are all definitely adults. There is swearing, and drinking, and sex. There is violence, and unsavory characters. There are a range of topics touched on, such as historic family abuse, murder, addiction, obsession, confusion over your place in the world etc etc. Some of my characters do some pretty vicious things, though for very good reasons. Moana in particular is one scary lady, but I love her. I love all of them, really.

Each book has a slightly different feel to it, which I hope embodies some of the essence of the gods and magics they involve. Some of them are darker than others, some are lighter. But, I hope you enjoy them all!

A-Z challenge, books, challenges, in the spirit, Kotahi Bay

C is for Constance

In The Spirit E-Cover_SMALL FINAL_18-11-2014Constance is one of the few characters in my Kotahi Bay series whose first introduction is after death. It is, after all, the result of her passing that means Alyssa ends up back in Kotahi Bay, with a haunted house.

She is an older woman, a grandmother, and considered to be the town ‘witch’, a legacy which Alyssa isn’t sure she wants to continue.

Constance makes her first appearance in my novella In The Spirit though that is not the first place she shows up in the timeline as she plays a background role in several other books, both before and after her death – all of which will become clear as the series goes on. She plays a key role in the town, and her death creates a change which allows outside forces to gain something of a foothold in the Bay.

I best not say more, or I might give things away, but hopefully you’re a little intrigued 😉