authors, reading

What’s on my reading list this year

Last month I posted about my Goodreads Challenge for the year, a mere 30 books (and I’m already behind, at just 3 so far!). Having such a low number really means that I will need to be a bit more choosy when it comes to what I’m reading. It means I will be more inclined to set things aside if they aren’t capturing me, and it means doing a little planning.

I’m usually the kind of gal who grabs books willy nilly, and I’m definitely guilty of only reading a fraction of the books that I purchase. In an ideal world, I will read them all one day, but time is short and getting shorter.

So, what do I HAVE to read this year?

Naturally, my text books: The Essentials of Family Therapy, and The Handbook of Transcultural Counselling & Psychotherapy.

Now that we’ve got the academic things out of the way, I MUST read The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig. I loved the first two books in the series and am very excited to read the third. Miriam Black is a fantastic character and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to this time around.

I also have got to get my hands on a copy of The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven Boys was my first ever Stiefvater book and I just adore her wonderful way with words. Really looking forward to reading book 2.

I’d also love to read Cress, book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer. I liked the first two, after not really expecting to, and she’s definitely an author whose work I’ll be following.

It’s nice to know there are  a few series that I’m keen to follow on with, though now I’m a bit sad that I’m not branching out or have any new authors whose work I want to line up. I’m going to have to go on the hunt.

You can help me here – I’ve recently been reminded that I love a good serial killer book. Not specifically police oriented stuff, but you know, people, serial killers, figuring out who it is stuff. I’d like to read some more of this type of book, with a futuristic earth setting if anyone knows who writes that kind of stuff. I’m planning on finally writing Saving Tomorrow next year, and I need some inspiration.

Delaney’s story has been four years in the making already and once I’m clear of study I want to give another shot. The main thing that has been holding me back is that futuristic writing needs a different kind of world building to fantasy, or even things set on other planets, and I know that I have to bring the city to life in order to make the most of this story.

So, suggestions welcome! Cities, action, murder, killers, grey areas, futuristic earth. Gimme gimme gimme.

Thanks 😉

Also, if there is anything that you think I should desperately be reading, let me know. I’m totally open to finding some new authors to adore, though my reading habits are often dictated by the rather small size of my book budget. I’ve got a few books lined up for the near future from some writer friends, but you can never have too many books, right?

Advertisements
writing

An abundance of M’s

Today I’ve been trawling through every file on my computer, Dropbox and Google drive in an attempt to find  something I started writing 3+ years ago. I remembered that it had been an attempt to write something with more of an ‘action’ feel to it, and that it began as an exercise in a creativity workshop thing I was doing just prior to Natalie’s birth – I’d been too tired, too scared, too anxious about trying to write something novel length since Lauren was born, and this particular piece, stemming from a dream I’d had, was a perfect way to cautiously approach a novel.

Of course, I never finished it, because life with a newborn, a 20 month, and a 5yr old is actually kind of insane.

But I thought about it today as I’m in a weird place in life right now – I have some spare time, but I have to start work on another assignment really soon, I have no pressing deadlines hanging over me (for uni, or anything else), and I want to write, but have nothing in progress as such. I’ve finished the drafts of three novellas this year, but I don’t have the time right now to revise any of those, and there isn’t much point in stressing myself out about that right now because I don’t plan on releasing those until late next year…

So naturally my brain went back to that other time when I was in limbo, waiting, and wanting something to play with. And this novel was the thing.

It has zombie babies, and regular zombies too. I’m on a bit of a kick right now and a friend recently said to me ‘you should write your own zombie novel’, so it was inevitable that my brain latched on that old idea.

I never titled this piece, and I couldn’t for the life of me remember the main characters names, so I went digging through every forgotten file, every ‘untitled’ document I could find.

And I didn’t find the story initially*. What I did find was that I have a ridiculous tendency to give my female leads names that begin with M. Overwhelmingly so. I had no idea!

Madea is the MC in Sun-Touched, and then we have Melanie from Surplus to Requirements, there is Melody in The Way the Sky Curves, and Moana in Shell and Bone. And then we have Meredith, Marama, Meagin, Megan, Marie, and Melissa from various short stories. And finally, Matilda in the Zombie Baby novel. Yes, I’m just going to call it the zombie baby novel for now. I literally have no idea where the story is going, though I’m sure I’ll have a blast finding out.

Not ALL my novels have M’s in the lead – Delaney is in charge in Saving Tomorrow**, and Lyssa is the female lead in Chasing Ascension… Gah! That might be it? Lord help me. I have an obsession with M names. Someone stage an intervention, right now. I’ll have to go out of my way to pick ANY other letter of the alphabet the next time I start a novel. Well, Samantha is the lead in my next novel, so at least she’ll kind of balance things out…

Save me?

Next time I start something new, I think I’ll put it to you to choose the letter the name begins with, because I need help. Obviously.

*I did find the first couple of chapters, thank goodness, but only because I’d emailed them to Anthony and I hadn’t deleted that email. I’m so pleased that my inbox seems to hold EVERYTHING from FOREVER ago. Apparently sending your stories to other people is the best back up method after all!

** It appears I might also have a thing for titles that begin with S… 

Uncategorized

Oh that familiar siren song of a shiny new idea…

Okay, maybe not a NEW idea, because Saving Tomorrow has been around and in the works for probably two years now. I started writing it once (beginning of last year? all the months are blurring together), but it never sat right and I struggled with several aspects of the story, including the fact that unwittingly I’d created something kind of abhorrent and which could easily be taken the wrong way. So it’s been back on the drawing board indefinitely.

Until now. I’ve been reading some books, different to my normal reads, and I think I know what I want to do with it. The issues I had haven’t been resolved, but I’ve pushed a few thoughts around and realized what it needs, and how I need to write it in order to make it sit right for me. It still has kinks to work out, big time, but I know I can resolve those, and now that I’m kind of a planner, everything (well mostly) will be laid out in advance and I will know that I have a story that works before I kick start draft one, again.

I’m really excited about this again, folks, but there is so much to do before I can get started on it! Burn still needs it’s final round before I kick it out the door, and then there is Sun-Touched to revise. I adore that novel and I want to make it shine and find a home for it. And then, after that (and the novella in between that I am trying hard not to think about!) it will be time for Saving Tomorrow. I figure I have a good six months to nail the plot down and smooth out the many rough edges. But still, six months is a very long time.

Damn that whole ‘finishing’ thing I’m trying to work on. Truth is, I’m never going to get anything published if I don’t knuckle down and finish what I’ve started though, so I guess it’s onwards with these revisions!

What’s tempting you right now? Anyone with a new shiny?

Uncategorized

There’s something about round numbers…

I hit 30,000 words on Sun-Touched yesterday and the buzz was phenomenal. I’m trying not to think about the fact it has taken me almost two months to write 10,000 words, instead I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve overcome several obstacles, learned to write outlines, and solved my latest bout of writers block.

Thirty thousand words!!!

It’s been a very long time since I was this far into a new novel. The last time I attempted one (Saving Tomorrow) I think it was just too early, and I struggled to find the right voice to tell it in. This time, I’ve learned some crucial things which I think will really help me with all future novels.

Of course, first I need to finish this one 😉 I’m going to hold onto my writers buzz for as long as I can, hopefully it will get me through to the next nice round number!

Uncategorized

Breathing in the story

Since I set aside Saving Tomorrow, I’ve done a lot of thinking about why I was struggling to write it. Well, to write anything at all, not just the novel. I was stifling my creativity with the desire to be further along the path than I was. I was frustrated with the lack of time, and the lack of progress, ending up in me being blocked and unable to make any forward motion.

So I quit.

I want to be very clear about something here – there is a HUGE difference between not writing because you are blocked, and not writing because you’ve made the decision not to. The first breeds irritation and kills creativity. It causes a negative loop which can be really hard to break out of. A surefire way (in my experience, anyway), to free yourself from this is to quit writing. Set everything aside and say ‘to hell with it. I’m not doing this anymore.’

Of course, you’re usually fairly sure you’ll be back sometime, but you have to say ‘NO’ for awhile. You take a breather, relax, fill yourself with books or conversation or music – whatever works for you. The guilt disappears, because you’ve quit. You start to feel the pressure dissipate. And then one day, you wake up feeling like you want to write.

During my rest and relaxation period, I read Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg. For a huge chunk of the book I wasn’t finding anything new. It’s a meandering writers guide, blending chunks of her life with writing advice. It wasn’t until I very nearly reached the end that I started to grasp the revelation that has helped changed my mindset – the realization that is now allowing me to write without the pressure, to breathe in the story and exhale it onto the page.

My best writing comes when I write the story from beginning to end. When I write it full, when I infuse it with the details that make the characters and world come to life, those quirky things that are vital to the who and the where.

And the problem is that I have so little time, and I have been in such a rush that I have been skipping through my stories. Writing the bits I thought were important and glossing over everything else. I’ve been sketching scenes, not breathing life into them. It’s the difference between drawing stick-men and creating a full colour masterpiece. The stick-men may get the point across, but it’s not as rich, as full of life and wonder as the masterpiece.

It’s no wonder I was feeling dissatisfied.

So now I am writing slow – not in words per minute terms, but in that I am stopping to smell the roses. I’m breathing fullness into my world and while the progress is decidedly slower, I can SEE it in my mind. I can hear my characters and imagine the smells that permeate this world that I am creating. It is vivid, and real to me, and the writing is working better because I’m not skimming. I’m diving headlong into each scene instead of just skipping stones across the surface, trying to get to the other side as quickly as possible.

So, my true issue WAS to do with time. But it wasn’t that I have so few minutes available, or that I can’t type fast enough, it was that I wasn’t going slow enough. I wasn’t stopping to breathe in the story.

Uncategorized

Jumping ship, again

This year I have done a lot of project jumping. I started the year off with the decision to get the first draft of Saving Tomorrow written. Then I worked my ass off on Mocha Nihilism, only to trunk it when it was almost ready for submission. I moved on to Chasing Ascension, hoping to get the first draft of that finished off quickly after cutting 15,000 words from the original version, which I then ditched to start work on Saving Tomorrow, again…

Yup. A lot of project jumping.

And now I’m ditching Saving Tomorrow, for the second time this year. I don’t have another project in mind. There is no new shiny. No other temptation. There is exhaustion and the inability to push ahead with a long term project.

I tried all the tricks in my book. I broke it down into smaller sections – I wasn’t thinking about a novel. I was thinking about this scene, or that. Getting this chapter sorted. Introducing this character. Exploring that situation…

I set myself small, manageable tasks – 750 words a day.

I allowed myself to suck while writing the first draft. I played with whatever ideas came to me. I pushed through blocks and outlined just the right amount for me.

And yet, I just can’t write this novel. Not right now.

Nothing I have tried has managed to get me past the ‘gosh this is going to take me such a terribly long time’ barrier in my brain. I guess what it comes down to is that I am a somewhat hedonistic writer, and one thing that gives me great pleasure is finishing off a draft. Unfortunately, finishing the draft of one scene, or one chapter, is simply not the same as finishing the first draft of an entire novel. It’s not really ‘done’ unless it’s ALL written.

Right now, I can’t make great progress. Life is so very busy. There are many demands on my time and less time than ever for writing. I could write the novel, but it would take me the better part of a year and I just don’t have the stamina for that right now.

What I can do is write short. I can start and finish short stories because they need so many less words. So much less time invested. That feels good. It keeps me smiling, helps me feel like I am making progress. I can begin and end, and have something to show for it. A ‘finished’ something. Eventually a ‘published’ something.

I can also write medium. I’ve proven to myself this year that I can do novellas. I can write them. I can revise them. I can edit them. They are not too hard. Not too big.

I cannot write a novel. Not yet.

So while it feels kind of shitty and lame to put Saving Tomorrow aside, again, it’s really my only option at this point. Setting it aside means that I will still want to write it. I will still love it and have drive for it when I do get the energy/time/head space to throw myself into a novel. (maybe next year, when my middle child starts a couple mornings of pre school a week – maybe when she finally learns to sleep through the night, which please god, can’t be too far off, surely).

Because right now, I feel like I am bashing my head against a wall. I don’t want to write. I feel uninspired and dragged down, and like I’m failing at something I should be able to do. And that’s not good for me, for my creativity, or for my novel.

So, now it’s official. No novel for me. Not this month. Not next. Probably not this year.

BUT, plenty of short stories to complete, new ideas to be had, and hopefully a return to gaining some pleasure from my writing. It’s been an exhausting month for reasons I simply can’t go into here, so I am going to go easy on myself for now.

Let’s see what happens 🙂

Uncategorized

Morning Pages

A lot of you will know what morning pages are, and I admit I’d heard of them for a long time and not thought I needed them. Until this last week. I’ve been feeling so out of sorts and completely unable to push past the messiness going on in my head that I decided to give it a go.

Well. Let me tell you – I wish I’d done it a lot sooner! It’s only been three days now, but the simple act of getting up, opening 750words.com and getting all the junk out of my head while the kids eat their breakfast has really changed the way I feel about just about everything.

I can’t say that it’s related to writing on the page, yet, but I WANT to write, and that’s a nice change. I’m going to write today, on Saving Tomorrow, and I’m actually excited about that. Thank goodness!

I’m hopeful that this next week will see some progress in that department, and maybe soon I can move away from the beginning and into the dreaded middle 😉

Don’t forget, New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week begins tomorrow!

Uncategorized

Revising expectations

I’m really struggling to sink into Saving Tomorrow at the moment. There has been a fair chunk of real life stuff going on that’s been filling my head, and let’s face it, the girls are keeping me very busy.

I remember only a few months ago when there was more time for writing. Not that I was necessarily getting more done, but we seem to have moved into a new stage here, one that is more active than ever before – the sunshine certainly helps, but when it comes down to it, I just have very busy kids who love to explore and experiment with things. Fantastic qualities that I want to encourage and support. Which means way less down time.

I’m cool with that. A good friend once said to me (I think this was back when I only had two kids, not three), that it probably wouldn’t be until they were all in school that I’d have the time and head space to write as much as I wanted to. At the time I dismissed that – after all, I’m freaking amazing – but now I can see that there is some sense in it.

It’s not that I don’t have the time (well, it IS limited), or the desire, or the willpower. I will continue to work on getting my short fiction published, I’ll keep chipping away at this novel and I’ll get to ‘the end’ eventually. Just not in my preferred time frame. Which is where the sense comes in. I now see that it wasn’t the time or head space that was the important part of that wisdom, it was the want.

However, I refuse to be frustrated. There are other options, I am sure, I just have to navigate my way through them and find a balance between frustration and apathy. (Which, if I am honest, is where I’m at now – knowing that it’s going to take me forever makes it hard to throw myself into the story. There is just no time for immersion, which is the way I usually like it).

Anyway, once again, I need to shift my expectations. This is a particularly busy time in my children’s lives, one that I want to embrace fully and make the most of. And perhaps that means that I won’t get to 30K on the novel this month. Maybe it means it might take me the rest of the year to get the first draft done. Maybe longer.

And that’s okay.

Uncategorized

Why I love the Rugby World Cup

The RWC kicks off in New Zealand on Friday, and the whole nation is excited – rugby is, after all, one of our most loved sports and it’s a great opportunity for little old NZ to host.

image courtesy of guardian.co.uk

What is even cooler is that this means the games are going to be on at a reasonable hour! While I am not a die hard fan of rugby, I will most likely watch a few games here and there.

And all the other ones?? Muahahahaha. Well, my husband will be glued to the TV. Last night he told me he thought there were three nights a week of rugby and my brain quickly calculated that would net me 5 hours or so of bonus writing time a week. WOOOOOO.

I’m struggling to write at nights a bit, but there is no way I can let this opportunity slip through my fingers. In past years we’ve had SkyTV and rugby season has always netted me some bonus writing time – thankfully the RWC is being aired on some free channels, as we don’t have pay TV anymore (LOVE just having basic TV).

So, I have this week to get my game on, get my head stuck into my novel so that I can max out my writing output for the duration of the Cup.

I’m keen to watch the All Blacks play, and hope they do really well – but I’m also keen to tackle this novel!

Maybe I can think of a RWC themed writing game… every time the AB’s win a game I have to do a 2k push on Saving Tomorrow, or something. Tama??? lol 

Uncategorized

750 words

Last month, M sent me the link to 750words, and of course, I signed up – it has badges, and stats and sends you an email reminding you to write. I’ve been struggling to reform a regular writing habit and it seemed like just the thing to help me out.  BADGES, people. BADGES.

Initially, it didn’t work. I was sporadic. I couldn’t even get the badge for a 3 day streak. Nothing was really working. Then all of a sudden, BAM, I was writing. 750 words a day, every day. I’m currently on an 18 day streak (it’ll be 19 when I do my writing for today), though yesterday was the first day in which all 750 (actually, 829) words were for a scene in Saving Tomorrow. I even wrote my words after getting back from a work function with hubby – I really needed not to lose my streak, even though it was late and I was exhausted.

I’ve used the site for planning, for outlining, for writing a short story for last months challenge, for starting a new short story, for venting, for problem solving, for writing scenes in my novel – all kinds of things. All of them words. Words I probably wouldn’t have got done otherwise.

I’ve written almost 18,000 words (on the site) this month, which is pretty amazing. Of course, not all on the novel, but all useful, all with a purpose. And I really don’t want to break my streak. I want a new badge, I have to keep writing to see when I will get one! Sometimes, these things work for people, and I am one of those people. I know others, too. I think Tama should sign up for when he starts his new novel (don’t worry, I have told him this myself! not just dropping hints via blog posts 😉 ) because he loves games, he loves badges.

It’s a great site if you need a hand getting back in the habit. I know I certainly did, and I am very grateful for it! I might even sign up for next months challenge and see if I can get 750 words every day for September. If you want a little math that would add at a minimum 22500 words to Saving Tomorrow. That’s a good chunk of novel right there. It might be slower than my progress back when I only had one child, but slow and steady is always going to get you there in the end.

And to be honest, I’m just grateful to be writing every day again.