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Reading log notebook giveaway

One of the things I’m experimenting with this year is designing my own notebooks. I have so far uploaded two to Amazon. One is a reading log journal, and one’s a plain dot grid journal with a funky cover.

I ordered a few of the reading log journals to kind of sense check how it looks. I’m not a graphic designer, and there were some weird things about the way I’d put the book together. So with that in mind, I’ve taken it down off Amazon so I can fix it up and make it a little prettier and easier to read.

But I ordered five copies of this, and I only need one to look through, so that’s where the giveaway comes in.

I’m giving away four of the prototype reading log journals, and you can enter the draw here. They look like this on the outside:

Inside there are lots of pages for recording what you’ve read, and also a 60 book reading challenge you can use or not. I put some cute design elements inside, and I’m generally pretty proud of them for a first try, although as I said, there’s some weirdness when you’re actually flicking through them.

My plan is to update the innards, and possibly the cover as well, and let you know when the better version is up for sale. Amazon do print on demand, so you’ll be able to order direct from them. Then I have some other ideas for other journals with fun prompts, so watch this space!

In the mean time if you want a dot grid paperback notebook with a funky cover, grab it here!

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Guest writer series: an interview with Elise Smith

Welcome to Elise Smith

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Elise Smith, I have over 25 years of experience as a writer, 5 years as a blogger and 3 years as a writing coach. I have written and published two autobiographies in my book series “The New Zealand Dream,” by Sheila my pen name. I wrote these books to inspire and give hope to others. I published my third book in July 2021, called “Johnathan,” I co-authored this book about my father who grew up in Manchester England during the war. My passion is creative writing, I write in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and content. I have published many articles, short stories, and guest posted on various sites. My short story “Stargazing” won a short story award in our local “Writing Sparks” competition.

Writing is a very powerful healing tool, sharing your story can give help others and help yourself on your healing journey. I am a writing coach who can help people write their own stories and with any writing project they are creating. I have mentored students working for Wellington polytechnic. I conduct interviews on my website to help promote my fellow writers and bloggers and host guest writers.

Where in the world do you live, and what do you like most about it?

I live in a little coastal city called Gisborne, in New Zealand.

What I like most about living in NZ is it has the ocean and all its bounty on my doorstep, a hop skip, and a jump and you are in nature surrounded by native bush with breathtaking hikes to experience and camp spots to discover.

Self-care is very important for writers, tell us how you look after yourself?

I too believe self-care is extremely important for writers and everyone.

I write about this topic often, below is what I do to take care of myself;
Spending time in nature🦋🌳🌸
Listen to positive music🎼
Watch positive movies/videos
Time for you/to treat yourself 💅🛀
Spend time with positive people👩‍❤️‍👨,
Set boundaries, say no
Spirituality and prayer/meditation🧎‍♀️🧘‍♀️📖
Feed your body and mind healthy🍇🥦🚶‍♂️🧠📖
Rid your life of toxic people, it is better to be alone than around negativity.
Remember you are responsible for your own happiness, nobody else should be expected to make you happy.
Sit just sit quietly
Pick/buy a bunch of flowers
Take a nap
Do something crafty, colouring
Go to the library and read

Reading:

What genres do you like to read in?

I like to read true stories and memoirs.

What’s a book that you have on your shelf which you’re particularly fond of?

“White thorn” By Bryce Courtnay

Writing:

Creative writing as a teenager, did you do it? Can you remember any stories?

Yes, I did do this, I remember writing about myself and a friend Samanther going on an adventure. She fell into a cave, I tried to save her but a vampire killed her. I got a certificate for this story.

What do you do/where do you go for inspiration?

I do things to trigger memories or feelings such as getting in nature, a smell, listening to music, looking at photos, or art.

Do you prefer quiet, ambient sound or music while you write?

I prefer quiet when I write.

Favourites:

Hogwarts, Narnia, Neverland, or Westeros?

Narnia

What’s your favourite song to sing at Karaoke?

Guns and Roses, Sweet child of mine

Favourite song to sing in the shower when no one else is home?

Bon Jovi, You give love a bad name

Favourite bird?

Bald Eagle

You can find Elise online:

My NZ Dream
Instagram
Facebook
Join us in the group “A journey of transformation.”
Goodreads
LinkedIn

Writers, writing

YA novel Onesies and Ouijaboards out now!

Onesies and Ouijaboards

I’ve returned to the world of Young Adult novels!

Onesies and Ouijaboards is a spin off from my Mt Eden Witches series – involving Basil the library witch from Overdues and Occultism and Monsters and Manuscripts. It’s a standalone novel, and you don’t have to have read the other two before this one, but you’ll get a better idea of the world if you do.

So, why did I write another Young Adult novel after all this time?

Honestly, it was because teenagers asked for it. Not like, by spamming my socials or anything, but over the last 16 months or so I’ve been to a few book fairs (not as many as were planned, due to Covid and restrictions), but I’ve learned a bit. I’ve had a lot of varied teens look at the covers to my Witchy Fiction books and been really interested, but then a few of them have asked if there’s romance in them, and been disappointed when the answer was yes. This happened a handful of times, which isn’t a huge survey at all, but it showed that there was a gap in the market.

So I went ahead and wrote Onesies with the plan of including no romance at all. It’s also my first book with a non-binary solo main character. Arrow came to me at the end of Overdues and Occultism – a grumpy, emo teen who came into the library with their family.

The book was delightful to write. Arrow was firm in my mind as a person who loved fantasy and wanted something more, and the events of Monsters and Manuscripts opened up the perfect opportunity for their story.

This book is going to be available over a lot of ebook platforms, although just for the moment it’s only on Amazon, but watch out for it in the next few days.

Gorgeous cover by Jacqueline Sweet

Be careful what you wish for…

Arrow is fifteen, non-binary, and bored.

It’s one thing to read about magic, or watch ghost hunting shows. But Arrow yearns for something more. When they try out a prosperity spell from a magical library book, things start to go very very right.

Until they don’t.

Arrow’s good luck seems to be affecting a lot of the people around them. From A students suddenly failing quizzes to freak accidents, their good luck seems to be double-sided to say the least. Arrow’s best friend Ren knows not to mess with the unknown, but Arrow’s spell might just affect him all the same.

Arrow’s got to learn about how to wield their magic fast when the power they’ve drawn down proves to be beautiful, but dangerous as well.
***

Onesies and Ouijaboards is a young adult novella spinoff of the popular Mt Eden Witches series. There is no romance, but there are tarot cards, best friends, ghosts and bubble tea

Buy it now!

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The best books I read in 2021

Last year was a really good year for me in terms of reading if nothing else. I had aimed to read 60 books and managed 76, plus change (we’ll get to that).

But which were the best of the year? which ones will I be recommending to people? which will be shoved into people’s hands whether they want it or not?

Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka
This is a weird little book and I absolutely loved it. A Japanese novella published in 2019 just kept popping into my consciousness. I read Earthlings by the same author but that one went a little too weird and dark for me. Convenience Store Woman is just a story about a woman who has never understood where she’s supposed to fit into society until she gets a job at a convenience store. It’s odd, but a really reassuring look at how to belong and how it’s okay not to do what other people want you to do.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix or… My Best Friend’s Exorcism by the same

I read quite a few Grady Hendrix books last year, but the ones which really stuck are The Final Girl Support Group and My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Both are horror and both play deliciously with the tropes of Horror. Final Girl is as it sounds, about a therapy group made up of women who have survived horrific events. Imagine if the movies Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and Scream were still movies, but based on true events. That’s the world of this book. The POV character is incredibly paranoid, so it is something of a stressful read to be in her head, but it’s a fantastic story. My Best Friend’s Exorcism is a bit simpler, as it’s a pure 80s soaked nostalgia trip of Satanic Panic. It’s full of pop culture references, and cute things ‘pasted in’ to the book like newspaper clippings etc. It got the Phil Collins song “Against all Odds” onto my music rotation again and if for no other reason, it belongs in this list.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Anna gave me a TimeOut book subscription for my birthday, and without it I would never have read this book. It sounded weird – a historical novel about what a specific nun’s life may have been like? But man, am I glad I read this book? Yes. It’s set around the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine and it’s very gay. I learned so much about how awful life could be for peasants at that time, and far more than I ever expected to know about running a nunnery. The author uses a stylistic choice around dialogue which I found it hard to adjust to, but once I did it was absolutely involving. I got lost in the world of the book and definitely had some feels over it.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Listen, I want you to pick up this book and read it knowing absolutely nothing. But I can’t imagine why you’d trust me to do that, so let’s just say: time loop plus body-swapping plus Agatha Christie. Go, read it.

First, Become Ashes by K. M. Szpara

This book comes with some content warnings: sexual abuse, abuse of power, brainwashing and violence. So, it’s definitely not for everyone. And usually, those things would put me off reading something as well, but there’s something so lush and compelling about K.M. Szprara’s words that had me eating it up. The story of a person who has grown up in a doomsday cult, convinced he can do magic, and what happens when he’s out in the real world… is magic real? Who will he fall in love with? What does cosplay have to do with it? Well, you have to read to find out.

One of us is Next by Karen M. McManus

Karen McManus writes fast-paced, gripping YA thrillers. This one is a sequel to her brilliant “Breakfast Club but with murder” story One of us is Lying so you do need to read that one first. But you won’t regret it. Gossip Girl style apps full of secrets, a dare game with terrible consequences and characters you can’t help but root for. I’ve read almost everything she’s put out and have not been disappointed by any of them.

There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Tsumura Kikiko
This is another one from my TimeOut book subscription – I wouldn’t have known of its existence but for the clever book selectors. And I absolutely adored this book. A young Japanese woman wants a job that’s easy, something close to home, something where she doesn’t have to think too much. The book chronicles her experience with four such jobs, starting with monitoring the survellience of a young writer. It’s hard to explain exactly why this book is so charming, except that the whole thing is so relatable, especially if you have ever been close to or experienced burnout. You want so much for her to find the perfect role, only for the contract to expire, or similar. It’s a strange and lush read, and I have forcefully shoved it into a few friends’ hands.

Swamp Magic by GinForInk
okay, this one is BTS fanfic, but I am including it because it is the most beautiful, weird, difficult urban fantasy romance I have ever read. It never shies away from the awkwardness of power imbalances between magical people and ordinary humans. Plus it’s longer than a lot of the ‘proper’ books I read this year.

CW: explicit sex, mind control, bullying, horror, body horror, bad parents and transformation

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Valentines Day reading

What are you up to this Valentine’s Day?

My spouse and I have booked a special dinner out at our favourite gastro-pub nearby. Vaccination passes are required of course, and the table will be distanced from other tables (life in Traffic Light Red in New Zealand). But dinner out isn’t for everyone…

I’m really grateful to have been included in Focus Magazine’s special piece on love stories written by New Zealand authors. Mine is featured alongside some truly awesome writers, including Zoe Piper and Anna Klein. The books featured are all novella length, so nice and quick to read, and who doesn’t love supporting local authors?

I’ve linked to the article below, but please check back because there’s going to be a giveaway launched in a day or two as well!

Short and sweet: romance novellas by New Zealand authors