Wednesday, March 31, 2010

16 letters of fame (Waw)

For today's Write Away Wednesday, I will be offering aspiring authors some never-before seen advice. Three words, 16 letters to help you on your way.


Once you do those three things, you're good to go. Well, of course you need to WRITE too, but I'd like to think that would be obvious.

FLOSS- Floss every day. And brush your teeth. Maybe I'm just a little biased here, but I think getting rich is more difficult for writers than any one else in the entertainment industry. You can actually be a famous author, bestseller and all, and be pretty close to broke. As an actor or singer, if you're big enough that you're a household name, you've definitely got money. Unless you've squandered it away on necessities like personal jets and private islands. Which further proves my point. How many authors have you heard of with private jets?

On top of that, the writing process is really long. Even if you can churn out a novel in a month, then you have to let it sit for at least one more month, before you edit. Then you'll want to send it to critique partners, and then edit again. And if you're fast and lucky, maybe you can have a novel in 6 months. Then you query, and if you get a bite in your first batch that process could take about 3 months. Then the book goes on submission, lets say for 2 months. I think the quickest I've heard of from my debut author friends from getting signed to a publisher and publishing date is 11 months.

So lets do a little maths here: 6 + 3 + 2 + 11 =22 months or almost two years. And that's if you're lucky. Most people take a lot longer for their book to make it into print.

Let's compare for a second to a singer. I'll use Rihanna as an example, because she's from my country and I know her story. You sing at a school concert. Someone introduces you to a Music Management Head, you get signed to them, and later to a record company. The following summer, you'll not only have debuted, you'll have a number 2 hit on the Billboard charts. And she wasn't even trying!

What's this got to do with flossing. Simply put, you are not going to see any money from your writing for a loooooooooooong time. So don't spend it unnecessarily. Dentists are expensive!

STALK- every industry person you can find: publishers, agents, published authors, pre-pubbed authors, aspiring authors. Don't get me wrong. If Tawna Fenske finds you in her rose bush at 2 am, don't tell her (and the police) that I told you to do it. I will vehemently deny it. And the US government will never get me extradited from Japan. (MUAHAHAHA!)

I'm telling you to stalk these people in the legal, not-insane way. Just about every one has a web presence- find them and follow their blogs, tweets or facebooks. Join writer communities. Comment on everything. Go to book signings when authors pass through your town. Even if you've never read them before, pick up their book and try it out and go have them sign it. Then stick around, in case they like to mill around and meet people. If you can afford it, go to a writers' conference. Every chance you have to be around author-types, take it.

POUNCE- A few years ago, we had a problem at my university. They were granting degrees in education to kids who entered straight out of school. The problem that arose was that these kids would be qualified in education, but not in any other subject. So there wasn't technically anything they could teach. Writing is like this. You don't write about writing. You write about life. Or death. Or paralysing fear of zombie clowns. Whatever. The point is that you need to have some knowledge about something other than writing, to be able to write a novel.

So pounce on every opportunity to get. That's not saying if world tours are discounted to $5000, you should take out a third mortgage and go. Pounce- but within reason. So if there's a Korean culture festival in the town next-door, go! Your next novel's MC's Korean ex-boyfriend (whew! that's a mouthful) will love you for it.

Remember, you're only 3 words away from the life you desire. Say it with me:


Celebrating with Moonrat: A contest

Moonrat over at Editorial Ass is giving away a 20 page critique to celebrate reaching half a million hits. Get over there and see what you need to do to enter. It's pretty simple.

Good luck all!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cyndi Lauper (Time Travel Tuesday)

Today we're jumping in to the vault headfirst. Diving down deep to find everybody's favourite parrot-haired songstress.

From 1984

From 1986 (The movie is Beautiful Thing)

This song was written and originally performed by Robert Hazard in 1979, but it may be Cyndi's most famous solo undertaking, from 1983. I just love the video for this song too. Get up and dance. You know you wanna!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How on earth does Paper really beat Rock? (Momm)

Today, what's on my mind is Priorities. Yes, I meant to have a capital letter in the middle of the sentence.

To help me demonstrate, let me introduce you to my lovely assistant Janken Pon! You may not know her, but you know her Western daughter, "Rock, Paper, Scissors". In Japan, Janken is like eenie-meenie-minie-moe, it's used to decide everything as a kid. Actually it's even bigger. If there's one piece of cake left at a party, adults might choose to janken for it. One of the most interesting things about janken is that noone here ever contests the results. If two kids were fighting about who should go first in a game and you have them janken, they accept whatever the get.

But what does this have to do with priorities?

In janken, there is a clear hierarchy: Scissors beats Paper, Rock beats Scissors and Paper beats Rock.

That's prioritising in a nutshell: placing things in a hierarchy.

Prioritising is very important to me. The story of my life is that I take on too much, at any given time. Take right now, for example.

I've just been elected to represent the Foreign teachers in my region(4 prefectures),
I'm editing a novel,
I'm critiquing two others,
I'm reading 2 Japanese series,
I'm learning the Jouyou kanji(1945 Chinese characters in regular use in Japan)
I'm watching a movie a week in French,
I'm reading a novel in Spanish,
I'm active in two writer communities,
I've got this blog to update,
I'm considering writing a screenplay next month.

Not to mention the mandatory stuff, like working 8 hours a day, cooking, eating, buying groceries, and, on special occasions, sleep.

To make it a little less overwhelming (because it is- what was I thinking?), I should keep a checklist (which I don't, but don't mind my bad habits :). But what I do do, intentionally or not, is keep a list of priorities.

I have to go to work, if I want to get paid, and have certain luxuries, like the computer and internet which I use for my editing, critiquing, communities, blog, etc. But some priorities aren't that easy to decide. Should I edit my novel or study my kanji? Let's have Janken Pon help us out for a moment. Paper beats Rock.

Paper BEATS Rock.

Really? Why exactly? Paper covers Rock. I don't know that a rock ever jumped off a cliff because a paper covered it. It's obvious how Scissors beats Paper, and how Rock beats Scissors, but the only reason Rock isn't invincible is because someone said so.

It's the same with priorities. Some decisions are obvious. Others you decide according to your personal feelings.

But if I decide that my novel takes priority over kanji, will that still be the case, after I've put in 20 hours on my novel and none on my kanji? If we had this system in place then only the number 1 thing on the priority list would get done. Just because work is important, doesn't mean that I'm going to work every waking hour. I'll set a cap on work and give them 8 hours of my life per day. In the same way, I'll set a cap on other priorities, so that things further down on the list have a chance.

As Janken Pon demonstrates, Rock is pretty mighty, but Rock will not always win. Sometimes Scissors is champion. And sometimes, flimsy little Paper wraps up the bacon and takes it home. The week before a Japanese exam, the Jouyou kanji become more important than my novel.

Don't try to be static. Constantly evaluate your progress, and reevaluate your priorities. And if they need it, change them.

After all, they're not set in Rock.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Inkwell and Freaky Flash Fiction

Hey guys,

I've just joined a new writers' community:

It's not just new to me, but new, as in recently created. It's specifically meant to cater to new writers, and if you've been looking for somewhere to meet other writers in the same situation, feel free to check it out. If you do join, hit up the Introductions group and let us know who you are.

Now, the second item on the agenda. I was just trying to clean up my hard drive a little and I opened a file called "Paradise Fiction". It's supposed to be a novel intro, but I can't remember what the novel's about. Either way, it makes a nice 85 word flash fiction. Enjoy!

Yeah, I killed her. I took her life her life quick and precise with a single slash of the throat. Then I took my time to carve her into 48 separate pieces. And, yeah, I wrapped them separately and deposited one in each state on the continental US. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t in the passion of the moment. I planned every ounce of it. Except getting caught. And if I had the chance I’d do it again. I’m not a monster. Not yet, anyway.

Sky-Post Lipstick

Hey there bloggers and bloggettes!

There's some more love floating around the blogosphere.

Thanks to Jon Paul at Where Sky Meets Ground, for linking to my post on the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Thanks also to the Postman for presenting me with this award.

The rules of this award are: State 7 truths about yourself, then pass to 7 bloggers.

1. When I was little I was a tv addict (now I've upgraded to film and anime). I was particulary obsessed with law enforcement type shows. I used to play a game with my little brother in which we had secret identities: Mac and Gyver.

2. I can fit an entire orange in my mouth. Well, not right now. Since the extraction, I am temporarily mouthicapped.

3. I hsve been to every continent except Antartica.

4. Although I am a Gittens by name, I don't have an ounce of Gittens blood in me. My grandmother (father's mother) kept her first husband's name after his death. My family is confusing all around. I have a step-grandmother in Australia and an uncle who is 5 years older than me.

5.I can do a full split.

6. I have worked in 4 different industries in 3 countries: Retail, Military, Tourism, and Education in Barbados, the USA, and Japan.

7. I speak English (on good days), French, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. I go back and forth about becoming a translator or a university foreign languages teacher. But that would require me to commit to one path for more than half a minute.

I'm passing this award onto these 7 blogger friends:

Amy Holder over at Written in Lipstick
Kathleen Ortiz at Neverending Pageturner
E.J. at The Open Vein
Laura at The Journey
Melissa at The Guardian Writer
Tricia at Talespinning
and Scott from A Writer's Blog

I also have to thank Amy at Written in Lipstick for the "Creative Writer" Award.

This one I'm going to pass to:
Marsha at Marsha's Musings
Kiersten at Kiersten Writes
Natalie at Between Fact and Fiction
Tawna at Don't Pet Me, I'm Writing
and the ever-awesome Postman at the Sententious Vaunter.

For this award, I show you one truth, hidden among 6 lies and you have to guess the truth.

Her goes nothing. Which of the following do you think is true?

1. I've eaten deer, rabbit, crocodile, snail, horse, ostrich and kangaroo.

2. I have visited 15 US states.

3. I narrowly escaped arrest in Colombia.

4. While I was in secondary school I played netball.

5. I met George W. Bush while training in the US Coast Guard.

6. I have never been to a music festival.

7. I have never broken a bone, but I did sprain my wrist once.

Happy hunting!

Friday, March 26, 2010

On onsen and enkai (FoF)

Onsen and enkai are two things that are as Japanese as sushi. Infact, more Japanese in some ways.

You're probably more familiar with onsen. That's the Japanese word for hot springs. They're all over Japan. You strip down, wash off and sit naked in a tub of nearly boiling water.

Some onsen are natural. Some are man-made. Some are indoors. Some are outdoors. (If you ever have the chance go to an outdoor onsen in winter.)

You're not supposed to have camera in onsen, but over the weekend, I went with some friends and it was just us so...

As you can see, steam is not conducive to picture-taking.

Also, last night I went to an enkai. An enkai is a drinking party you go to with the people you work with. Because it's Japan, it wil have an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony. It will also cost way too much money. Teachers tend to have enkai at the beginning of the school year, at bunkasai (culture festival), at the end of the calendar year, at the beginning of the calendar year, at sports, at graduation, and at end of school year.

The end of school year party is also a goodbye to teachers who are being transferred. In Japan, a teacher spends anywhere from 3 to 8 years in one school before beign transferred to another in the same prefecture. Someone once told me that it's so that when they become Principal they've got a wealth of experience in different situations. I think it's sad. In Japan, work is life. And your workmates are often your only friends. Imagine having to switch your friends every 5 years! And move across the state to boot!

Teachers who left last year ( I didn't take my camera this year) along with the Principal (the guy)

Anyhow, back to the enkai. After the enkai is the nijikai (second party), the sanjikai (third party) and I've even once had my teachers do a yojikai(fourth party) which I narrowly avoided going to. In Japan, drunkenness is perfectly acceptable. And what happens in the party, stays in the party. It's good and bad. You'll have a teacher discuss how they translated the entire Constitution of Japan into English, then they;ll only say Good Morning to you when you get back to school.

Before we eat, citations are read and presented. (And of course, there's the kanpai! In Japan you can't touch the food or drinks at a formal event until the kanpai-cheers.)

Most of the meal. A few more courses are served later, including desert and soba.

During and after the meal, we go around pouring each others drinks, so we can have a chance to speak to one another.

Another thing about drinking here is that there's no tolerance for drunk driving. If you have a drop, you're illegal. If you eat certain sweets, or take certain medicines you're illegal. So they're very efficient about it. Noone pressures you to drink if you're driving (on the flipside it's hell to avoid drinking if you're not). In addition they have the daikyu system. Two guys come in a cab. You get into your car with one of the guys as driver and he drives you home with the cab following. Then he jumps back in the cab and leaves.

Finally a video of two of my craziest teachers doing the "Air" for two of the departing teachers last year. The one with short hair is leaving, this year. I am going to miss him!

And of course this week's edition of Iwate Swan. This time Rodger is shopping in his town, Hanamaki. Note the range of KitKat flavours :)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Off days

I just realised that my posts this week are off. I posted Monday on Tuesday, etc. It's not because of time zones: I am ahead of most of the world from Japan, they don't call it "The Land of the Rising Sun" for nothing.

Monday was a holiday. And I spend the days when classes are out (kids still go to school for club activities) at the Board of Education. Every day at the Board is the same, so I didn't even realise til I started organising tomorrow's weekend plans.

Sorry guys. Hontou ni gomen ne!

PS. Why do teeth have nerves? So pointless. It's right up there with having an appendix :(

Latino love (Time Travel Tuesday)

Today's blast from the past includes some Latin music faves.

Remember partying to Los del Rio's "Macarena" from 1995

Ricky Martin's "(Un, dos, tres) Maria" also from 1995

Lou Bega's "Mambo no. 5" from 1999

How is it that everything's just sexier in Spanish?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How bad you suck? (Momm)

Today's Monday on my mind is influenced by Nathan Bransford, literary agent and blogger extraordinaire. Yesterday he blogged about the Dunning-Kruger effect. In a nutshell, it states:

1. If you're bad at something, you'll think you're good.

2. If you're good at something, you'll think you aren't.

Let's think about this in the context of American idol. I haven't watched in a hot minute, but every audition season is the same. There's always at least one. They show you an interview with them before they go into the audition and they talk about how much they love to sing, how they've been in the church choir since they were 3 and how they are the next American Idol.

And then they sing.

And you think you'd rather listen to cats having sex while being lit on fire.

And after you finish cursing yourself for not having been born deaf, you wonder. How the heck did that person survive a minimum of 16 years of life without anyone telling them they couldn't sing?

But maybe someone did tell them, and they thought that person was just hating. Or maybe, everyone was trying not to hurt their feelings. Little did they know, they were creating a monster which would unleash itself on the whole world.

Ever so often, I come across writers like this, and I wonder how someone in their life hasn't told them how bad they are. And I think someone needs to stop them before they query an agent. Because heaven forbid, I query the same agent. And they're in a bad mood from wallowing through all the slush from writers like that. Someone needs to stop them, but it won't be me.

On the flipside of the coin, there's another type of person you always find in the auditions. The person who is the next Celine/Aretha/Sinatra/Vandross. They too have been in the church choir since they were 3. But unlike Mr and Miss Catfiresex, they don't think they're the best thing since Cherry Blossom KitKat (it's a Japan thing). So they take the stage and they open their mouth, and you're blown into the next century by their sheer awesomeness!

And then you wonder, how the hell did they not know? It's hard to imagine Aretha thinking she can't sing.

By the same token writer-friends, we doubt ourselves.

I think the Dunning-Kruger effect must be even worse as a writer, too. If you're writing a novel, it's months (at a minimum) before you generate a complete work. For all that time, you're either wallowing in the depths of the pitifulness of your work or your deluding yourself into grandeur.

I know I'm a decent writer, but I think I've got miles and miles to go. Yet, everyone I've shown work too has received it enthusiastically. I mean, there have been suggestions, but nothing major. Ever. Even when I sent a chapter to a Postgraduate Writing Program Director. She loved it! And I just wrote off her reaction as trying to sell me on the program.

I asked my latest critique partner to be brutal. She responded that she couldn't because she liked it. (She's only seen two chapters-plenty of time to change that opinion.)

When I add these things up, it makes me wonder...

Am I just a victim of Dunning-Kruger?

Might I



be remotely


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beth's Contest

Hey, bloggy friends.

Beth over at Write it out just got a book deal!


And to celebrate she's giving away two awesomesauce packages- one for writers and one for readers. Be sure to check it out!

I'm off to the prefecture South of mine(Miyagi) to celebrate my long weekend (Vernal equiinox) with some Jamaicans and one Barbadian. Hopefully, I'll have internet access. If not, see you guys Monday!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wordle- Urban Legends provides a fun little tool for writers. You can paste your story into their applet, and it will create a cloud of the most common words it finds. It automatically removes numbers and "the", "to", and other common English words.

My most common word is back! How on Earth is that possible?

So here's my first novel in a wordcloud.

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alt="Wordle: Urban Legends"
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The Graduation Chronicles - Chuugakkou (JHS)

In Japan the school year runs from April to March- which means it starts in Spring and ends in Winter, which kind makes sense. These last few days, I've been having graduations.

Here is a quick synopsis of the Junior High's graduation in pictures. Let me warn you: Japanese graduations aree tear-jerkers. They bore you to tears for the first half, then they find every conceivable way to tug on your heartstrings.

In the morning, there was a ceremony for the 1st and 2nd years. Then we had these wonderful bentos (boxed lunch). The brown thing in the second pic contains natto - fermented soybeans, it's one of those hate it or love it foods. I hate it.

Omiyage (gifts) The Japanese one says "Life (force, not as opposed to death) and the French one says Language of Chocolate- they made me happy :)

Hareyama sensei leads in 3-1, as Baba sensei holds the door open. The girl you can see upstairs is one of the Nurse Room kids. She's with the school counselor. In Japan, if you have an issue with one of the kids in your class, or with a teacher, or if you're too shy, you can elect not to go to class and spand your days in the Nurse Room. You're also not special ed, if you say you aren't. I am not making this up.

As you enter the (freezing cold because they turned off the heaters because they are noisy) gym, you bow.

Hirai sensei went the whole nine yards and wore a kimono. Every female teacher seems to own one. I'd buy one if they weren't 9 layers of clothing and didn't cost $8000 US or so.

The kids march into the room and wait for the entire class before the sit. Girls and boys are always seperated in Japanese schools. Side by side- but seperate.

Then the form teachers read their names and they collect their citations.

They give it to these girls, who put it in a little folder.

Boys first, then girls,

like a little assembly line.

These 4 haven't been absent in the 9 years since they started primary (Elementary) school! Afterwards were a bunch of speeches. I didn't take pics, speeches look the same all over the world.

Here's the tearjerker part: the 3rd years are singing to the rest of the school

And the rest of the school sings back to them.

Kanako playing the piano. In every class of 30 or so, there are 3 or 4 kids who play well enough to do accompaniment.

And they also train the kids to conduct.

Many buildings still do the traditional inside shoes- outside shoes. It always amuses me to see people dressed to the nines and in slippers.

The dignitaries leaving. The dignitaries included: Mayor's Rep, Board of Education rep, 9 town coucil reps, principals of the the 3 primary schools that feed into the Junior High, Police rep, Post Office rep, and 4 bank reps.

Waiting outside the school (in 5 degree weather) to give the sempai's their gifts. (Sempai is a person who's been doing something longer than you, and therefore ahead of you in seniority.)

Here come the 3rd years.

The first and second years did an "Air". It's a way for the kids to pay their respects.

Bye bye Ichinohe Junior High

I was surprised I made the teacher's list- my position doesn't fit into the Japanese structure. I'm the 3rd from the bottom on the right, above the school counselor, and below the woman who makes the school lunch menu.


Graduates on stage with streamers.

Bento and Bingo.

Kanpai! You can't eat until you toast!

This bento was AWESOMESAUCE!!!

The bento box I won in Bingo.


The kids sang YELL, another tearjerker, featuring the line sayonara is not a sad word. Let the blubbering begin!

They gave all the teachers flowers.

Dear Claire (ku-re-a), it's only been a short time, but you worked very hard to teach us English. Thank you very much. Graduates. WAAAAA!

And finally, instalment number 6 of Iwate Swan.

Sorry about the long post. It's just been a really far out week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Double digits!

In the last 24 hours, I seem to have picked up 4 followers, pushing from 9 to 13.

Yay, double digits!

Thank you all!
Danke sehr!
Merci Beaucoup!
Muchas Gracias!
(Insert every other language here- I'm so grateful.)

I'd like to thank Jon Paul. Firstly, because the story I posted yesterday was an entry in his blogfest, and I genuinely enjoyed writing it. Secondly because 3 of my new followers discovered the blog because of the story. So thank you (again- I thank you a lot- you must be a superhero!) Jon Paul.

Yay, double digits!

I'd like to thank the newest followers for joining me. I hope I can keep you entertained.

I'd also like to thank those of you who've been with me for a while, especially my first five followers: Erin (Glam), Jen, Jewls, Marsha and Neil. You guys have been reading my madness for a while now. Thanks!

Yay, double digits!

You might not think that 13 people is a lot. Let me tell you a secret: it isn't!

But each of those 13 people thought I had something to say, something they might like to hear. And for that, I am honoured.

Thank you, I hope I (continue to) live up to your expectations.

Networking- business and pleasure (Write Away Wednesday)

These days, everyone's heard about the power of networking for business. But have you ever thought about networking for pleasure. No, I don't mean facebook or twitter or myspace, or any of the other social networking sites. I mean professional networking for pleasure.

Say who? How can it be professional and pleasurable at the same time, you ask? Well, let me show you.

Sometimes, you have friends who mean well. Let me give you an example a friend of mine faced. She's an awesome superhero. She's on a weight loss program and so plans her meals, and eats well. She had a friend sabotage her once. The friend said Superhero wasn't as fun when she was counting calories. Maybe she meant well, but at the end of the day, it boiled down to one thing: she didn't really understand what was important to Superhero.

Before I got into teaching, I worked on a passenger-carrying submarine. It was the only submarine on the island. Whenever I met you new people, they'd ask "What so you do?" I'd tell them, "I work on the submarine." CLONK (sound of jaw dropping). We who worked on the sub got really close. We were like a family. There was so much that was specific to only our job, that you always had to be explaining to non-submariners.

In both cases, it's just easier sometimes to be with people in your group. A recovering alcoholic is not going to tell another recovering alcoholic, that a couple a couple sips of Dom Perignon at a 30th birthday party will be fine.

Writers need a similar network as well.

Your friends and family love you, but they will say things that don't quite fly for you. Things like:

"Why don't you just self-publish?"
"I love your first draft. You should send it to a publisher right away!"
"Wow, you got signed! So, I'll be seeing your book on shelves next month?"
"I just loved your first draft so much, I lent it to Mary, and she lent it to Jack.."

They mean well, but they don't have a clue about how the important stuff- the differences between traditional publishers and self-publishing, the length of time between signing and publishing, the importance (or even existence) of agents, why you're protective of your work, etc.

If you hang around the blogosphere, or writers' network sites like Writer's Digest community, you make friends who are in the same place as you are. They'll say things like:

"That was nice, but maybe you'd want to have Prince Charming discover that Cinderella kissed a coachman, before the ball. That way you have the conflict of them dancing together for the whole ball, where's she's deliriously happy and he's just smiling so as not to cause a scene in public."
"Did you check editors and predators to make sure that agency is legit?"
" Maybe you could merge character X and character V, they're really performing the same function."

Noone can replace your friends. Ever. But just because you trust your beautician best friend to do your makeup for your wedding, doesn't mean you should trust her to repair the engine of the plane that's flying you to the honeymoon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love of the Irish

Jon Paul over at Where sky meets ground invited all his bloggy buddies to write for Drunk at First Sight.

Happy St Paddy's Hope you Enjoy!

Love of the Irish

“Once upon a time
Was giggles and laughter
Once upon a time-
Happily Ever After
Once upon a time-
Happily Ever After!”

The band stopped playing and Deandra looked into the crowd, a pained expression on her face. When she sang again, it was a haunting whisper.
“Once upon a time-
Happily Ever After!”

The band joined her on the last note and the crowd erupted. Deana smiled and curtsied, holding out the sides of the A-line knee length black skirt. She didn’t normally curtsy, but she didn’t normally play McNally’s either.

She took her customary seat at the bar, and signalled the bartender.

“Been a while since you sang here, Deandra.”

“It has, Snoop. You still pour the most perfect pint this side of the Caribbean Sea?”

“Don’t be silly girl. The sun will always rise in the East.”

She laughed as Snoop sauntered off to the tap to pour the Guinness.

What a day! She’d had that silly fight with Tom this morning. He was always so crabby when he was sick. And he was even crabbier because he would miss the celebration. And, as usual, Berkley had been down her neck about the reports for the end of the fiscal year. God, she really hated her job. What she wouldn’t give to shove Berkley’s silly reports up his patootie, and sing every night on the circuit. But the circuit wouldn’t fuel her Mercedes-Benz.

“Ten seconds!” The DJ shouted just as Snoop slid Deandra’s drink down the bar.
Everyone in the bar stopped what they were doing and counted down.


Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Deandra raised her glass and took a gulp. People hugged friends and strangers. The band took the stage again. This time fiddles and banjos replaced acoustic guitars and basses. The projector lit up a screen above them with the words to the Irish Drinking Song. Deandra didn’t even have to look at them.

“They come over here and they take our land,” she shouted. She stood up and signalled Snoop to watch her drink. He nodded and put it on a counter behind the bar.
Deandra made her way to the dance floor. She could not resist a chance to step dance. Sometimes, her friends teased her about the fact that she knew how to “riverdance” as they called it. But she didn’t care. It was fun and she loved it. She whirled around the dance floor, free as a bird. The crowd clung to the walls, watching her swift movements. Even though she wore a controlled smile on her face, she was overflowing with happiness inside. It was her show.

Until she heard footsteps behind her. A cloud of shock passed over her face, but it
was gone as quickly as it had shown up. She hadn’t thought he would show up tonight, but she was not going to let him curb her flow. She whirled around a smirk on her face. Her smirk disappeared as she took in a face she had never before seen.

He was definitely an Irishman. She didn’t know a single redhead on the island. And if the redhead didn’t give him away, the way he perfectly executed the step dance did. His feet moved swiftly, in time with the music, but his head was perfectly still. And his eyes were locked on hers. The way he stared into her, she felt like he could see her soul. She had never felt more vulnerable. It was like she was naked, right there in the middle of the club. She wanted to run, but everyone was watching.

“We puke and we smoke and we drink and die!”

Deandra had never been so glad to hear the end of a song. She curtsied to her partner. He took her hand and they curtsied to their audience. She smiled at him one last time, then turned her back and raced towards the bar.
Damn it, he was following her.

“What’s the craic?” he asked.

“The craic is mighty!” She gave the traditional response to the Irish greeting.

She pointed to the counter and Snoop brought back her stout. Snoop nodded to the stranger.

“If I didn’t know better I’d have thought you were McNally. Noone else tears the floor up like the two of them. “

He walked away without noticing Deandra’s scowl. Just when she’d been feeling better.

“So you do this regularly?” The stranger inclined his head towards the dance floor.

She shook her head.

“But this is Barbados. If I step dance once a year, it’s once more than everyone else here. “

He laughed.

She finished her drink.

“Look -“ she paused.

“Jarlath-” he inserted – “means Western Prince in Gaelic.”

“Jarlath,” she repeated, “I gotta get going.”

“May I walk you to your car?”

“Can I stop you?”

He laughed. “I guess not.”

She stood and signalled to Snoop.

“I’m out. Tell the guys from the band.” She gave him as much of a hug as the bar between them permitted.

“Don’t be a stranger.”

“That’s your boss’ call. Not mine.”

He shook his head. “You know I don’t get involved in-”

“Night, Snoop.” She cut him off before he could get started.

He turned and sauntered over to a customer.

She and Jarlath left the bar and walked to her car. It was on the far end of St Lawrence Gap, near Dover Beach. She never used the employee parking if she could avoid it. The entrance often got blocked in, even though there were traffic police on patrol. Then she’d have to wait until all the clubs on the strip closed down for the crowds to go home.

Jarlath chatted with her as they walked. He confirmed that he was Irish. And he told her that he was on vacation from his job as a paediatrician, but had come to the island to avoid his family. His mother seemed to think that him living on his own was excuse enough for her to turn up all hours of the day with little or no reason.
She told him that she was a Financial Controller. She made good money, but her boss was a prick. She hated her job and wished she could flush it to hell in a handbasket.

They reached the car and the dreaded goodbye.

“When will I see you again?”

“How about never?” she asked calmly, unlocking her door.

“Never? Why not?”

She turned to face him.

“I’m married. “

She turned back to her car. He spun her around to face him. And they were back to staring. His eyes searching her soul, seeing all the way to the cobwebs. He put his hand on her cheek. Her brain told her body to move. Her body ignored it. He leaned towards her, eyes still locked. And then their lips were. His kiss was soft, tentative, as if it was asking a question. He pulled away before she was ready.
“Sand Monarch Hotel - 203.” He disappeared back the way they had come.

Deandra got into her car and shut the door, wishing she could shut the thoughts out as well.

Thirty minutes later, she was home, showered and ready for bed. She crawled in beside her husband.

He stirred. She kissed his forehead.

“Are you feeling any better?”

“A little. I’m hoping to be back out tomorrow.” His voice was grittier than usual.

“Great! You should get your sleep, though.”

“I’ve been asleep all day. Maybe I could use some of your special medicine. Give me a treat for old St Paddy.” He propped himself up above her. He lowered her lips to her mouth.

Jarlath flashed up in her memory. She let him kiss her for a moment, before pulling away.

“Sorry hon. I’m totally exhausted.”

He nodded, and rolled off her.

“Good night, Tom.”

“Good night, Mrs. McNally.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Truth or Games (MoMM)

I went a Morris Chestnut spree recently- not on purpose but I mean, he's yum!

But that's not what's on my mind. Well it is, but it's not the point.

I saw "Two Can Play that Game". It's a movie about the 'relationship rules'. You know: when your partner does X, you should do Y. The basic premise is that both partners end up playing by this set of rules, until they drive themselves further and further away form one another and happiness.

Now, I'm a big advocate of truth myself. What you see is what you get and all that. My philosophy is don't do stuff you have to lie about in the first place. And if you did it, you should be big enough to own up to it. But I will admit truth can blow up in your face too.

And this isn't just true in romantic relationships, but in any interpersonal relationship.

So, truth or game, which way do you swing?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Immune to Drunkenness and Earthquakes

I have never been drunk in my life. I've also never tried to be drunk. But then, I've never tried not to be. I go to parties with friends and most of the time, I'm drink for drink with them, and at the end of the night, I'm fine and they're plastered.

I'd never thought much about it until January. A big group of us IWATE foreigners went on a ski trip. As often happens with foreigners in Japan, it eventually degenerated into a drunken party. (That's one of the things I'm not a fan of out here- it's like College Part 2, except I wasn't like that in college.) SO we were playing drinking games and I watched person after person go down. But I was fine.

I had 6 shots of tequila, several glasses of wine, several cans of beer, rum, chu-hi (Japanese canned juice and alcohol- I think vodka), straight vodka... pretty much everything you can think of. And I was fine. I didn't slur. I didn't wobble. I don't have any memory lapses. I talked too loud, but I always talk too loud. I went to bed at 3, while the party was still in full swing. But I suspect that had as much to do with the 2 hours of sleep I had the night before as with the alcohol.

And after that night, I theorised that I just can't get drunk. I think I might give myself alcohol poisoning and die first. That is possible right?

But that is by no means the strangest thing.

I don't feel earthquakes. At all.

I live in Japan. Earthquake central. To date I've experienced 7 earthquakes, including one back home in Barbados. If by experienced, you mean someone calling me on the phone freaked out, "OMG! Did you feel that?" Seriously.

The first time I "missed" an earthquake, it was the one in 2007 that did some damage in Martinique. It was only a 3 something where I was. I was in a car with my Dad. We felt nothing. We were actually trying to puzzle out why the radio went off air, and why people were standing outside their houses. We didn't know til my mom got home from work!

There was an earthquake yesterday. A friend told me it was big, everything shook. I was awake, watching tv, felt nothing. And only minutes ago, my neighbour rushed over in a panic. I was like "Earthquake? Really? That's number 7. lol"

Just like with drinking, I feel like the day I actually feel an earthquake- well, let's just say I won't be blogging about it!

Like the flipside of this movie. He saw things others didn't. I don't feel things others do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'd like to thank the Academy...

So I got my first blog award!!!

It comes by way of Jon Paul, helicopter pilot just home from Iraq, inspiring blogger, and awesome writer.

The rules of this award are simple. Pass it on to (up to) 12 bloggers who brighten up your day, link to them in your post and then mosey on over to their pages and let them know.

My Blogosphere Sunshiners are:

Marsha Sigman - mild-mannered accountant by day, keyboard-toting writer extraordinaire by any-moment-she-can-spare
Natalie Whipple - transparent ninja author repped by Nathan Bransford, this anime-aholic and sketchmaster packs her blog full of advice for newcomers
Kiersten White- Repped by Michelle Wolfson, she's as paranormal as it gets under 5 foot 3, look for her book Paranormalcy in September. In fact forget that, go and reserve it online NOW! And it's Kiersten. K-I-E-R-Sten.
Jen/ Ex hot girl - always a hot girl in my books, Jen's weight loss blog also dabbles in photography and John Mayer.
Jewlia Goulia - Awesome has brown hair and a winning smile. And has lost 45 pounds since December.
The Intern underpaid and overworked, everybody's favourite intern dishes about life in the hallowed halls of Venerable McPulitzer.
Erin All glam and glitz, she tries to banish the gut, in a personal weight loss story.
Joe and Lydia Sharp have loads of technical advice for new writers.
Moonrat - providing editorial, publishing and writing advice, as well as being a walking library.
Carrie Harris- Grand Lord Snarf Zombie and author of No Pain, no brain: out in 2011.
Tawna Fenske- As glamourous a romance writer as ever drew breath, and twice as hilarious. Signed for a 3 book deal with Sourcebooks, her first book comes out in August 2011. Kiersten's Agency-sister.
Nathan Bransford- Superstar blogosphere agent. Also hosts forums on his page, so it's an interesting place to meet other writers.

Howaito Day (FoF)

White Day (Howaito in katakana- Japanese foreign language word script) is celebrated on March 14th. White Day is one of many Japanese mutations on Western culture. (Like spaghetti in hot dog buns, but that's another post :)

Now Japanese people love a celebration. Every day life here can get pretty dreary. As a junior high school student, you go to school at 6 or 7 and have club practice. Classes start around 9 snd finish about 3. Then you clean the school. Then at about 4, it's back to club til about 6. Home to do mounds of homework and you might be in bed by ten. Life only gets harder after JHS. So Japanese use every excuse to celebrate.

White Day is a response to Valentine's Day. In Japan girls give guys chocolate and presents on Valentine's. 1 month later on White day, guys are suppose to return presents to every girl who gave them something. Generally guys should give a gift 2 or 3 times as expensive as the one they received.

I really need to give out Valentine's. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time Travel Tuesday- Christina

Look who's come a long way.

From 1999, Genie in a Bottle. I modeled to this at my Secondary School Fair. lol

Ven conmigo is the Spanish Version of Come on Over released in 2000.

And this made you almost want to work in a whorehouse. Or not! :D

Here's one singer that grew up well!

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Perks of Failure! (MoMM)

There is a certain amount of comfort in failing. And by failing, I don't mean giving something your best shot, coming really close and just missing by a hair. By failing, I mean looking at a goal, way out there in the distance, smiling, waving and staying right where the hell you are.

I am talking about failure to act.

I mean that sort of failure is easy. And it's not just failure in and of itself, it's getting comfortable on the wrong side of any dichotomy. Let's look at style for example. You could keep up with fashion. You could have clothes which are a la mode. You could style your hair every day. You could have cool shades of well-applied make-up and killer stilettos.

Or you could pull on a T-shirt and a pair of jeans. It's easy.

The problem with failure to act is that it's just as easy to get lulled into it. Even if something really matters.

We've all got our goals. Most of us have broad, overarching goals as well. Those goals that start with "some day I'll". And because they're things that will take a lot of work, we don't start on them today. And before you know it, today is tomorrow, and tomorrow is yesterday, and we're blowing out the candles on our 80th birthday cake and thinking "Who knew I still had that sort of lung capacity?"

But also thinking, "How did I get here? When did my dream pass me by?"

And there's another comfort of failure to act. Let's go back to the fashion example. Fashion is really subjective. You could go out in a black garbage bag. One day, all the critics would praise you as avant-garde and risque. Another day, everyone would want to know if you're crazy. But you can't go wrong in a T-shirt and jeans. You won't be particularly fashionable, but you won't be out of fashion either. You achieve a comfortable middle ground where you won't ever win, but you'll never lose either.

It's easy. It's comfortable.

But I actually want to win!

Which will you choose: failure to act, or the risk of failure to succeed?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hina Matsuri and Vacation of Sorts (FoF)

Hey Guys, welcome to another Far Out Friday, from the Far far far East. This week, Hina Matsuri.

March 3rd was Hina Matsuri- Doll Festival/Girl's Festival. It's a day to pray for the prosperity of girls. Families with girls display hina-ningyo (dolls) on a 5 or 7-tiered stand, covered in a red carpet and featuring dolls ranging from the Emperor and Empress to pieces of furniture.

Hina matsuri is not a day-off, so I really didn't notice when it passed last year.

In other news, this is my last week of teaching for the school year! YAY!

The Japanese school year runs from April to March so in a few weeks I will be sobbing my eyes out at graduations.

So, I'm on vacation right??? Well, not exactly.

In the normal world, the kids and teachers go home for vacations. Not in Japan. I've heard a rumour that once upon a time, teachers had vacations off. But then other civil servants complained. Imagine how easy teachers had it back then. They only had to work til 5 (many people in Japan work til 7) and they had about 12 weeks of vacation dispersed through the year. So now, teachers go to school every working day, just like everybody else. Unless they take a vacation day, which noone ever does.

The really sad part is that the kids also go to school. They don't have classes (I think), but they have club practices.

As for me? The ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher)go hang out in the Board of Education, or at their base school. For us, it's the BOE. We're lucky because we have our own office, so we can do whatever we feel like for 8 hours a day.

In the past, I haven't really done anything with this time, but this time I'm determined to. A month of doing nothing 8 hours a day is such a waste! So here's the list. Hope to be able to acheive it all!

1. Transcribe and translate (from Japanese) 5 episodes of Sailor Moon.
2. Read 2 more books in the Rainbow Magic Series (in Japanese)
3. Translate and furigana (write out pronunciations of kanji) all the instructions in my JHS text books.
4. Read Le Petit Prince (and maybe translate from French)
5. Read De Amor y De Sombra (Isabel Allende)
6. Edit Novel 1.

Wish me luck!

And finally, here's Iwate Swan#5.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Merits of Short Story Writing (Waw)

There are a lot of people in the wide, wide world who dream of writing a novel. One day, they'll wake up, sit down to their computer, typewriter, notebook, dictaphone :), and they'll just pound out a novel, which they'll sell in 2 weeks, and then they'll be famous.

They dream of writing a novel. Dream.

For those of us who would like to do more than just dream, the short story can be very useful on the path to a great novel. Now I'm not saying a novel is just a stretched out short story. It's not. Nor can all novels be condensed into short stories. But the short story can be a step on the path to the title "novelist".

Let's use a quick analogy. (Cuz I LAVZ analogies!)

Kim dreams of running a marathon. She's fairly fit, and has run the 100m sprint all through high school. So she runs the Boston marathon. How do you think she does? Well, she doesn't win for sure. And if she even finishes, it would be nothing short of a miracle!

Here's what Kim should do. She should give herself a couple months beforehand. Run a little every day. Occasionally she should do longer distances. She should condition her body so that it's ready for the torture that is a marathon. Maybe she should even enter a 5 or 10 K. While it's very different from a marathon, she'll get to practice some of the skills she needs in the marathon: like conserving energy, endurance, pacing, strategy.

It's the same thing for the novelist. A novelist doesn't have to write short stories. But the jump from 1000 word essays to 80,000 words in a novel is a doozy, and an aspiring novelist can use the short story as a tool.

Voice is the sum of a writer's style. That "je ne sais quoi" which differentiates one writer from another and makes a piece more than just the sum of each word. It's the thing that makes you get comfortable with authors even though characters, storylines and sometimes even genres change from book to book.

As an aspiring writer, your voice is inside you. Somewhere. You just have to dig it out. Writing is your shovel. The more you write, the more you discover your voice. You may not want to try this sort of experimentation in a novel, because you may find yourself trapped in a voice that doesn't feel right or you may change voice midway. A short story gives you 3 or 4 thousand words to explore a voice. If you don't like it, shelve it the next time around.

Some people are really lucky. They've always known exactly what they wanted. If that's you, great! If not, welcome to the club! Since I decided to embrace my inner novelista, I am bombarded with story ideas once a week, at the very least. I keep a word document just for them, but I can't help noticing, these ideas are all over the place. Some are Sci-Fi, some fantasy, some slice-of-life dramas, some Young Adult, some Middle Grade/ children, some literary. An author with a well developed voice may have an audience who buys whatever they write, whatever the genre, but many authors seem to stick to one genre. I don't want to have to write a novel in each of 10 genres to figure out what works for me. By writing short stories, I can explore genres on a short-term basis. It's like the difference between getting married straight outta school and having a few girlfriends or boyfriends before you tie the knot. You can work it either way, but if you're not sure, you shouldn't be getting married. Either you end up stuck in an unhappy marriage or divorced. There's nothing as joyous as writing something you're not passionate about. And taking your following with you when you switch genres is always a cake-walk! (Just in case you missed the sarcasm, have an extra helping :)

Writing short stories can help you practise "economies of words". In a short story, every word should serve a purpose. Every single word illustrates the conflict or the character or the motivations, etc. You can't afford to have a two-paragraph lull (or worse, a 2-page one) because a reader will just stop reading. Short stories are never published on their own. They are a part of a magazine or newspaper or a collection. If you lose the reader, they won't plog on through, like they might with a novel, they'll just flip to a different story or read this week's beauty tips. Developing this skill can help you keep your novel tight.

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Editing is the part of writing most writers seem to hate/put up with/drag themselves through. You're a creative person, you want to create and create, you don't want to go around fixing the kinks in existing work. Short stories can help you get into the habit of editing because they're much shorter and less intimidating.

Many people say because of the sheer volume of short stories, that it's easier to get a novel published these days, than a short story. Even if it is, it must be more economical (effortwise), considering the number of steps you can skip and how quickly you know whether or not you've been successful. And at the end of the process you get to say, "Published in SUPERREALLYUPSTANDING magazine", which, unless you're on the New York Times Bestseller list, might actually make you more highly regarded than publishing a novel. (Please note, always pay special attention when you type 'regarded'. Ask Marsha about highy RETARDED agents. lol.)

Writing short stories can help you get practised with some of the steps to publishing. For example, rejections. I've never queried so I don't know first-hand, but my novels are my babies. I can't even bring myself to let my neighbours (who pester me about them constantly) see a page. A single page! For fear they won't like it, and will ask me if I'm crazy to try to be a writer. Short stories aren't your babies. They're kinda like your sister's kids. They're sweet and you cry if something mad happened to them, but you'd soon get over it. If you practise getting rejected on short stories, you won't feel quite as bad when your queries, partials or fulls don't get the response you want. You can avoid the arson charge for setting your flamethrower lose on the offices of Megaloth Publishing! Isn't that great news?

Time to wrap up though. Looks like I need to go write some short stories and practise my Economy. lol.

This has been another Write Away Wednesday!