Thursday, February 21, 2019

Am Reading

Friday is a good day to ponder one's reading over the past week. Now that I am getting a tad more used to reading on the bus to-and-from work, I'm whipping out a novel as soon as I take my seat. Not so great on the winding bits, but on the straight roads, I'm good.

I'm currently reading Jennifer Probst's The Marriage Bargain, because I read her wonderful writing book, Write Naked and her amazing story of how The Marriage Bargain became a NYT Bestseller, and ended up selling for a million bucks. (Apologies if I've got that order wrong.) This just does not happen for category-length books!  The author's own fairy tale story, to be sure. Wonderful characterisation and dialogue in the novel, too.

On the non-fiction front I am making my way through Judging Shaw by Fintan O'Toole; it's a look at George Bernard Shaw and his GBS brand. There is an exhibition on GBS coming to New Zealand next month so I'm getting up to speed on this fascinating man, his self promotion, and lapping up his sayings. Admission: I only ever knew Shaw as the author of Pygmalion, had no idea about the whole GBS thing and how he invented himself. This book has wonderful images in it as well, and is an eye-opener. I may put it on my birthday list for the fam to consider buying me. It's a beautiful hard cover.  Shaw visited New Zealand in 1934 and the public couldn't get enough of him and his superstar status.

For work, I've been making my way through a stack of local history books for an article I'm writing for a journal on a small town down south, although, to be fair, it's more like consulting the index at the back to find what I want. But it counts! That's what I'm telling myself, anyhoo. The article is due at the end of March but I have yet to start writing it. When the editor asked me the other day how it was going, I said I was 'pondering'.
And in romance fiction, I read a lovely hearth-and-home romance this week, Tina Radcliffe's Falling for the Cowgirl.
~ Joanne.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Judge me by the joy I bring


I had a book voucher to spend recently and while browsing, decided to buy The Bullet Journal book. I got a bullet journal last year but I think I need to up my bujo game, hence the book. I also bought a copy of The Winners Bible by Dr Kerry Spackman, a New Zealander who coaches high performing athletes, among others, on how to improve performance. My brother had recommended the book a while back and when I saw it, I figured I’d give it a go.
Its an interesting book which I am making my way through and taking notes, but today I was pondering a section he calls 'intrinsic drivers'. That is, those reasons for doing things. It's all about digging deep within yourself to figure stuff out. He asks you to list things you like doing and then examine why you like them. Reading, of course, figures and I thought it was really interesting to ponder just why I like reading a novel, romance or any other genre. Straight away I know that with romance I like the happy ending and that you know it's going to end up well. No need to skip to the end to see whodunit. You know the couple are going to end up together. But what else?
Thinking about reading a good book, I came up with a few things. One is that it's just joyful. Blissful. Reading a book you love is one of life’s greatest joys. They’re entertaining, especially if it’s a good laugh out loud chicklit, a la Sophie Kinsella or Jill Mansell. I recently discovered Cathy Maxwell’s regencies, different yet again, but so much fun with a great story and strong female characters. I think there’s an element of accomplishment in finishing a book and adding it to a list such as the "goodreads challenge". I am not one to persevere with a book just 'because' so not everything I start gets finished. I love reading because one can be by oneself, and as someone who is quite anti-social at times most of the time, that’s a biggie. I’m not so sure about escapism. I know that’s a reason for a lot of people to read, but I have never felt the need to escape from life, so I’ll hold fire on that one. And as a writer, certain authors inspire me, particularly when I read something wonderful and want to replicate that with what I write. That’s why I often go back to favourite authors like Fiona Brand, Abby Gaines, Karina Bliss, Nora Roberts, Jenny Crusie et al. 
It’s interesting to ponder, anyway, how something so basic can bring so much joy. As an author (it may have been Kathleen Gilles Seidel ) wrote in an essay in the book Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women (ed. Jayne Ann Krentz)  … judge me by the joy I bring.



Monday, February 11, 2019

Writerly Woes, an update

I thought my latest book, The Heart of Matthew McLeod, was done when I read it through and
realised, it so wasn't. How depressing.
The first couple of chapters, despite a lot of work on them, just weren't working at all. They were disastrous.
They were stilted, dull, boring, unexciting, amateurish, lame.....
I could barely read on, so sure as heck, no one else was going to bother, and put themselves through that torture. What is a writer to do when their world is about to fall apart around them, when all that work is just utter crap? What?
Pondering what to do, it came to me as I struggled to get to sleep one night and the solution was simple.
I could cut the first three chapters.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A fair bit of rewriting involved to be fair, but it may be the answer. I really think it will work.
So while it's not back to square one as such, it is back to the re-writing as I figure it all out.
My writing year to date has not gone to plan, but that is life, really.  I was terribly optimistic, overly so at New Year, but reality is setting in and while I had planned for the book to be out at the end of Jan, it is looking more like the end of March.
If my slash and rewrite works. Here's hoping it does!


Monday, February 4, 2019

Rest homes and Weet-Bix

Traditional Kiwi cereal!

Am taking a break from the dreaded editing of a manuscript that will be the death of me.
Anyhoo.... I just spent a nice weekend in my home town, visiting my mother, who now lives in a rest home. I go down every couple of weeks and look forward to giving mum a day or two out-and-about. It may be temporary, her living there, it might not be, but I have the utmost respect for the caring and nursing staff who work with older people. One of the carers at the home gets Mum to dress in nice outfits and put on jewellery when she goes out with us. The other day when I went to get her to take her out, she was dressed up, even wearing make up and looked really, really good. Plus it made her happy.
When I was a teenager I worked as a kitchen hand in a rest home, and I enjoyed it. I liked the setting up the dining room for the meals, and the clearing up after, and working with the guy who washed the dishes and the chef. That was where I first saw people eating Weet-Bix like toast, with butter and jam. I went home and tried it. It’s not too bad!
At Mum’s rest home the other day I was chatting to a woman named Ivy and I asked her age, and she laughed and said she was 98.
Ninety eight? I said in disbelief.
She was mobile and compos mentis and she looked amazing.
Even more, she’s happy in the rest home. Here in NZ, workers in the aged care industry received a significant pay increase last year, and the woman who worked to get that pay increase was honoured for her work.
I guess until you are around older people in rest homes, you don’t realise how important it is. You hear stories of abuse – an aunt of mine is in a rest home she loves and speaks highly of, yet it has been in the media a few times for some bad errors of judgement. And its not plain sailing with Mum’s place either, there have been a few things that might not have been done right, where communication has been lacking between them and us, but I know staffing issues are difficult. Maybe now, more kind people will be attracted into the industry, who are rewarded for what they do which is looking after older folks who deserve respect and to live their last years as well as they can. Most of us are going to be there one day, after all. That’s what I remember from being seventeen years old and working weekends in the kitchen of the home. You never know what you post retirement years are going to be like, but you hope people will be kind, and I hope, even as a kid, I was kind to those folk. Even the perpetual complainers.
And before I forget, I will write a note to the rest home, and praise their staff and especially the ones who make mum feel good when they help her get dressed every morning, and put on her jewellery and lipstick, and make her feel a million bucks.
~ Joanne

Books from the past

I was talking to a friend the other day about reading, and happened to mention that one of the things I liked about romance when I was a ...