Tuesday, August 31, 2010


It's September 1st. That means it's the first day of "Go Hard or Go Home!" That's my new project to get my butt back in gear with my Japanese study, writing and fitness. Wish me luck!

It also means that it's tiem to announce the winner of INSANITY!!! Day 1:

That would be -



Lola, mail me at muchlanguage(at)gmail(dot)com, with your address. Congrats.

If you didn't win, Paranormalcy is now available. I'm about halfway through and it's fab!

Today we welcome New York Times Bestselling author,Sophie Jordan, to Points of Clarification. Thank you for joining us, Sophie!

Your new YA paranormal, Firelight- which has an amazing cover, seriously guys, you need to go see that cover- will be released on September, 7th. Tell us a little bit about the book.

Well, the summary is the best way to do that:


Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet of her kind, she nearly pays with her life, only to be spared by a beautiful stranger sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki--a descendant of dragons whose ability to shift into human form is her best defense.
Forced to flee into the mortal world, Jacinda struggles to adapt. The one bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irrestibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away - if it dies she will be left a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and irresistible passion ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide ...

Beyond this, I’ll let you know that Firelight is book one of a trilogy and all the books are centered around Jacinda and the world of the draki.

YA paranormal is the hot stuff right now, but the same monsters are being recycled. So, dragons? Fierce, beautiful and not overdone: where did the idea come from?

It might sound silly, but once I decided to write a YA, I really did wait for the idea/muse to come to me. I wanted to write a young adult novel with a strong romance (of course!), but the paranormal element was elusive. I wanted the paranormal aspect to be unique and fresh – both for the current market and me, too. I needed to be excited about it. I had lots of ideas flit through my mind that I quickly dismissed, but when I landed on dragons I knew I hit something that wasn’t being done in YA, and I got very excited. When I started thinking about how dragons might have evolved I knew I had the making of a great new paranormal world.

You’re not going to find a dragon-themed YA like mine. I really do believe that I’m breaking new ground. My dragons aren’t your ordinary dragons. They’re not what you typically find in fantasy fiction. My dragons are called draki and they’ve evolved over the millennia from the dragon of common lore. Once I established that, the plot and love story fell easily into place.

This is your first YA novel, even though you’ve seen success in Historical Romance and Paranormal. Has it been a tough switch over to this new genre? Any advice for aspiring writers with ideas in more than one genre?

Writing in three genres keeps things fun and fresh for me. I think it’s challenged me and made a better writer, too.
As for whether an aspiring writer should try her hand at more than one genre, I say go for it! Writing two books a year is very doable. Most importantly, just follow the story you’re passionate about … wherever that may lead you.

You made the NYT Bestsellers list with IN SCANDAL THEY WED. What was the first thing you did when you heard the news?

I think I told my editor to “shut-up” several times in the manner of Mia from Princess Diaries. I was stunned! That night was take-out, but a group of my closest friends celebrated by going out with me and hubby later that week.

So “Sophie,” what made you decide to use a pen name and why do you only use it on some of your books?

Well, I got my start writing historical romances, and “pretty, romancey” names tend to be the thing. My editor and I came up with the name. I use a different name for my paranormal romances to distinguish the genres.

Can you give us a quick run-through of how you came to be published. What’s the one thing you’d like to tell aspiring writers?
Get an agent! A good agent. And write, write, write. Revise, revise, revise. Oh, and read, read, read – especially within your target genre. That’s pretty much what I did.

Finally, plotter or pantser?

A little of both, but I especially plot(ted) for Firelight. Since it’s a three book series, planning was necessary.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us, and best of luck with Firelight!

Thanks, Claire! Thanks for having me here!

You can win a pre-order of FIRELIGHT today.

Along with Sophie's Reccomended read, The Body Finder by Kimberly Derling

For today's contest, you must be a follower, and you have until 11.59 EST Wednesday night to enter.

Today's random question:

If you were to discover that you were a paranormal creature, whatcreature would you most like to be, or what powers would you most like to have?

Good luck to all.

Oh and by the way, since I've lived in the US only 2 years of my 28, everything I do on this blog is open internationally, unless otherwise stated.


Somehow, it seems some of you out there in bloggyland haven't read The Hunger Games. I think that's an injustgice of the greatest magnitude. And so, never one to tolerate injustice, I'll be giving you a chance to win the Hunger Games Trilogy.

Today's contest is open to blog followers only. Contest ends at 11.59 pm EST on Tuesday.

To win, you just need to tell me Team Peeta or Team Gale? Don't worry if you don't know enough to make that call. Just tell me which of the following rings more true in romance: "opposites attract" or "birds of a feather flock together?"

Good luck!

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Hey guys!

It's midnight, and I just got in from my town festival. Pics to come.

In the meanwhile, today is the first day of Insanity!

If you've been lurking around here for a while you probably know what author debut I'm totally anticpating.

So without further ado, let me repost an interview I did in April with Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy.

Congratulations on your new novel. So you’ve got your first copy of PARANORMALCY in hand. Does it feel real yet?

Every stage feels a little more real than the last! Although I do sometimes forget, and seeing that cover with my name on it is always a happy surprise. It's actually happening! How odd.

Tell us a little about your publishing journey.

I started writing about five years ago, after my first child was born. Initially it was just a hobby, something to pass the time. I didn't get serious about pursuing publication until I started writing YA novels. I wrote the first one of those in June of 2008 and signed with Michelle Wolfson, my agent, that November. I wrote another novel that December, and PARANORMALCY that January. When the first novel didn't sell, I decided Para was the one to pursue and spent several months editing it. Michelle went out with it the end of July, and by mid-August we had a three-book deal with HarperTeen, and my brain exploded with joy.

I don't think my brain has quite recovered yet, in all honesty.

Right now I've turned in the first sequel, am editing a previous project, and drafting an entirely new book that will hopefully turn into something wonderful. I like to keep busy.

From your ravings (and Tawna’s) I deduce that Michelle Wolfson is either a superhero from another planet or an angel. Is it possible to be both? What’s your relationship like?

Michelle is fabulous to work with. She's warm and funny and approachable, but also very aggressive. I never doubt her drive or business savvy, and I know she got me the best possible home for my books. She responds quickly to any and all questions, is always professional, but also delightfully (and occasionally wickedly) funny. I adore her.

You’re a fulltime Mommy and wife. How difficult is it to squeeze in writing? What’s a typical day like in the Kiersten White household?

My days involve feeding kids, dressing kids, feeding kids, re-dressing kids, running errands, feeding kids, and putting kids to bed. And feeding them. So yes, the days are very, very full and it can be hard to get in any writing time. Typically I try to write in the evenings after they go to bed, but anyone who has kids can tell you how frequently bedtime is either challenged or messed up. So, like anyone else, finding the time is always the challenge.

So PARANORMALCY? Interesting name. Tell us about the book.

PARANORMALCY follows Evie, a sixteen-year-old girl working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency. In a world surrounded by the paranormal, Evie desperately wants a little normal. But when someone--or something--starts murdering immortal paranormals, she's got to decide which is more important--figuring out how to be normal, or accepting who she is and, you know, saving the paranormal world and stuff.

Evie sounds awesome. Is she a lot like you? What would be Evie’s ideal Saturday night? Does she like mayonnaise on her French Fries? (I mean inquiring minds are dying to know!)

Evie has a similar sense of humor, but that's about it. Evie's ideal Saturday night would be to go on a date with a cute boy and have as normal a teenage experience as possible. So, if she thought putting mayonnaise on french fries was normal no doubt she'd at least try it. But I'm pretty sure that's the strangest thing I've ever heard...

Finally, any advice for those aspiring to get to where you are?

Work. Writing is wonderful and fun and engaging, but if you are determined to get published, you really, truly have to work at it. Hard. A lot. It's gonna take some sacrifices, and a whole lot of drive on your part. So decide whether or not it's what you really, truly want. If it is, full speed ahead!

Thank you Kiersten, for your time. Good luck with the novel.
PARANORMALCY will be out September 21st. Get thee to the store nearest you and pre-order it now!


Actually, the release date has been moved up to August 31st, so here's your chance.

Remember :

1. You have to be a follower for today's prize.
2. This contest is open til 11.59 pm EST Monday night.

The prize:
Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY


All you have to do to win these two books is tell me: Which paranormal creature would you like to meet if you had the chance?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back 2 Skule and INSANITY! Rulez

I'm back at school this week. I had 2 days of Junior High and today I was at my small elementary. I should be at the other elementary tomorrow, but we've been given the day "off" to go judge and English speech contest 2 towns away.

I've been having a blast with my kids. And I've got some jems for you from junior high.

On a dialogue:
"I've got two tickets to Pakistan today. Would you like to come with me?"

Q&A time:
What's your favourite fruit?

Do you play the flute?

Today at tiny elementary, I only had to teach for 20 minutes. I spent the rest of the day talking to Haruto about Naruto - yes, I have a student named Haruto and he's actually a Naruto-aholic - and talking pictures of intra-mural swimming.

I love my job!

This weekend is my town festival. Hopefully, I'll have a ton of great pics for you guys next week. :)

Also, here's how this round of INSANITY! will work.

1. Each contest goes up at 12.01 am JST, I believe that will be 11 am EST, and you can enter to win until 11.59 pm EST. This gives you 37 hours to enter. Be glad I'm in a time zone 13 hours ahead of most of you.

2. You can win a maximum of 2 days per round of insanity.

3. Last time, I restricted INSANITY to followers of my blog. My reasoning is that I want to reward you guys that come here every day and listen to my randomness. But I also don't want people who wander in to feel obligated to join. I like to think we're all here because we want to be. So this time around, I'll be mixing it up. Days 1 thru 3 are open only to followers. On the last two days, everybody and their grandma can win.

Good luck!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Playing to your strengths

"Wow! Your Japanese is so good!"

I get that a lot. Especially when you consider I didn't know a peep of it before I set foot on this island 2 years ago. And even moreso when you think about my not studying for the past 18 months.

But, obviously, it could be better. Miles better.

As long as I've known myself, I've had this problem. Call it what you will: lack of commitment, being fickle, eternal boredom- in the end only one thing matters. The fact that I can't seem to stay on track with anything. People, places, things, they all lose their shine and get relegated out of the spotlight. Although the really important ones are recycled at some point.

I know this is my problem. But the problem isn't idenifying the weaknesses. It's counteracting them. Even when people see what's wrong, we wallow in it. We wade out into the pool of "If only I was more [insert adjective here]" and just sit there soaking it up.

But there's always a flip side.

Maybe your thighs are too flabby - but your stomach is flat
Or you laugh too loudly - but you always make everyone smile
You might be bad at Physics - but you can play the pants off Beethoven (although I'm not sure I'd want to. Ew!)

And sometimes, these strengths are just the band-aids we need to cover over our weaknesses.

I don't stay put.

But what I am good at, is getting completely engulfed in whatever I'm interested in. I can be up to my neck in something for months at a time. And during that time, I can eat and sleep and breathe it. It's on my mind all the time and I'm rather obsessesive.

I've tried to balance it out, but that doesn't work.

And now I wonder why I have to.

If the objective is to do 6 months work, why do I have to do a month of work every month? What's wrong with doing all the work in 4 months and taking 2 months off?


So that's my new mission. I'm making my life into school terms (trimesters). And during these terms, I'm going all out. On my Japanese study. On my fitness. On my writing.

And then I'm going on vacation.

Maybe it's not the best system. But it seems like it just might work. And using a system that works, has got to be miles better than using one that doesn't.

What are your crippling weaknesses? What strengths do you have that you don't play up?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rinse-Repeat and the return of Insanity!

First off, there are contests everywhere! I guess that's what happens when you follow pretty much all industry blogs and the lead fall books get released.

Kiersten and Natalie are both giving away PARANORMALCY and Kody is giving away THE DUFF.

And, next week, the INSANITY returns!!!

If you've joined me in the last 2 months, you probably don't go what that is. To make a long story, short, it's where I go psycho and give away books every day for a week.

This time, I've had some authors helping me out! Writer people are the ROCKINGEST!!!

Now, on to the Rinse-Repeat test.

From the time I was a kid, I could watch the same movie (or tv show or music video) over and over and over. 'Til everybody else in the house was climbing the walls. But I've never been able to do that with a book. My friends would re-read their faves when the movie adaptations were coming out and I- I just couldn't.

I'm almost ashamed to admit the first book I ever re-read. Stephenie Meyer's New Moon. Because I hadn't read the series in so long, I couldn't remember the details. (I didn't re-read Twilight, because it's in Barbados, but all the rest of the saga is here.)

From then on, I haven't had a problem re-reading books, and I actually want to re-read them. In fact, when I read Lee Nichols' DECEPTION last week, I tried to start a new book (actually 2. In two different languages!) but I just couldn't. I didn't want to let that book go. So I re-read it. That's right. I read a book. Loved it. Put it down. Picked it up. Read it again.

The second time around, I noticed how intricately woven the plot was. I could see where things hinted at certain facts, but they were like Jack Sparrow’s island – you could only find see them if you already knew how to get there.
And as I finished the book, satisfied for the second time in as many days, I thought about all the movies I’ve seen that have failed the Rinse-Repeat test. After a couple screenings, I see continuity issues, plot issues, all kinds of stuff. I don’t mind. Moviemakers probably don’t intend for people to watch a film 50 times –before you ask, yes I have- and there are a lot more ways for a movie to go wrong than a book.

Books, on the other hand, need to be as good the second and third and fourth times. For me at least, or the magic unravels. Infact, the more I read a book, the more everything should come together, not fall apart.

Team Peeta AND Team Gale

PART 1: Rocking Jay!

MOCKINGJAY was released at 3 am EST. Nine times out of ten, being in Japan makes international stuff a pain. When critique partners are having Skype meetings on Saturday afternoons, it's some ungodly hour of Sunday morning here. But for once, the game played out in my favour. 3 am Eastern Time just happens to be 4 pm Japan Standard Time, the exact time I get off work. (Due to technical issues, I wasn't able to start reading until 5.30 pm.)

I devoured the book. But since I appreciate the fact that most of you have probably been asleep for half the time I was reading, I won't issue any spoilers.

What I will say is this:

There was a death that brought tears to my eyes (It will not be the one you think)
I love the ending sentences for the book AND for the epilogue (Don't blame me if you read ahead!)
The not-so-subliminal social commentary is DEEP

And everything else is spoiler. Read fast, so I can rave!!!

Part 2: Decisions, decisions

It's hard to say which was anticipated more: The culmination of the Capitol vs the districts or the outcome of the war between Peeta and Gale

Even before I'd read the Hunger Games, in fact before I'd heard of them, I heard about Peeta and Gale. (Amazing characterisation when you consider that Gale is not actually present for maybe 90% of Book 1!)

When I started reading, I felt like I had to pick one. Gale? Peeta?

I'm bad at decisions.

The only reason I'm Team Jacob is because he loses, and I have this thing about underdogs.

But I really identified with Katniss' choice. Not just her final decision, but the entire process.

The hunter or the baker?
Action or words?
The one with whom you laugh or the one with whom you can cry?
The sentimental or the practical?
The one you need to be strong for, or the one who's strong for you?

Essentially, the counterpart or the complement?

Because Gale is a counterpart. An equal. A mirror. One who can finish her sentences because they are alike.
And Peeta is a complement. A supplement. Additional. One who is strong where she is weak.

It's an argument that I see both sides of. If I were in those shoes, I don't know which I'd pick. After all:

Birds of a feather, flock together.
Opposites attract.

I started out on the winning team. And after flipflopping several times, I ended up on the winning team- ironically for the very reason the loser mentions in the book!- but it's not to say I wouldn't have crossed over again if the book had been a little longer or shorter.

Anyway, I really should get some sleep. I've got to teach all but one of the class periods tomorrow, and I'm supposed to be up in 5 hours.

NOTE: In case you've been hiding under a rock for - oh, a couple years or so- MOCKINGJAY is the final installment in Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Mantle (Monday on My Mind)

Society has a considerable influence over who we become. Many moons ago, society dictated that we should marry at 14, have 7 children, lose all our teeth at 30, and be happy if we survive ‘til 37. Since then, we’ve become more “liberated.”

Now, we can throw off the shackles of family life and take the working world by storm. Or we can have them both, cradling a baby in one hand and a cellphone in the other. I mean we could still get married early (16 in most places) and have 7 children – although medical advances would hopefully ensure we keep our teeth and life a little longer- but that would be like spitting in the face of every women’s liberation advocate who fought for all we have. Right?

When I was younger, I was a rebel without a cause. I hated all things traditionally associated with girls. I wouldn’t be caught dead in pink or in a skirt. I refused to learn to cook. I hated perfume and makeup. I was a tomboy. A large part of it was because I liked the things boys liked. But, maybe, just as much of it was the fact that I was supposed to fit a mould. And I’ve never liked being told what to do.
Only recently did it occur to me that when you do the opposite of what society expects, your life is still being dictated. Unless, you’re doing it because it’s what you want.

I still hate perfume and makeup, but I love pink! Sometimes it cute and ultra-girly, sometimes it’s loud and attention grabbing. Just like me! (Seriously, my cell phone, camera and laptop, as well as most of the clothes I buy…) And I happen to love Prince Charming. Yeah, I know I get on his case a lot, but I LOVE him, and I’d love for him and his white horse to ride in. Any moment now.

Sorry, women’s libbers, for not taking up the mantle you so painstakingly made available to me. I thought the point of liberation was to be free. In my mind, freedom doesn’t really have boundaries. Consequences, yes. But, no boundaries. But that’s just in my mind. And I’m wrong a lot.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Can I touch your hair?

I watched Karate Kid (Best Kid in Japanese- isn't that amusing, that the Japanese don't use the word "karate" in the title?) a few days ago. You should totally go watch it. But then, you might not want reccommendations from someone who's seen 10 movies in under a week. Just saying.

It rang so true for me, as a black person in Asia. One of the first things the Chinese heroine says to the Black hero is "Can I touch your hair?" I can not tell you how often this has happened to me. I have had complete strangers come up to me, and ask "Touch? Ok?"

At first it's kind of creepy because - well- you'd be freaked if random people walked up to you on the street (and in parks and at arcades) and asked to touch your hair. But after a while, I thought about it, and I realised that I might be the only black female these people will ever see.

Part of my mandate as a JET (participant on the Japan Exchange and Teaching program) is to internationalise. Japan has been isolated from the rest of the world for so long, that there are a million and one misconceptions about the rest of the world.

- Everyone who doesn't live in Asia is a native English speaker.
- All Americans are blonde and blue-eyed.
- Westerners eat bread at every meal.

Seriously, the list is endless!

So, if letting a random woman pet me can improve her understanding of the world, it's really a small price to pay.

What was it they said?

One small hair touch for a Japanese, one giant world touch for Japanese kind!

...or something like that :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Go Hard or Go Home

Tokyo Orientation was a ball. But, as the coordinators mentioned, we are the cream of the crop on this program, and in some ways that's depressing. It's easy to hide away in Dinkville and feel like I'm superawesome, but then when I'm with the sort of people who get chosen to assist in orienting new JETs... well, let's look at the numbers. Each year, about 6000 people apply to JET, a little over 1500 are chosen. Then, of the 4,000 JETS in Japan (first through fourth years) about 700 apply for 128 spaces as Tokyo Orientation Assistants (TOAs). Those who get in are the elite of the elite!

To make matters worse, this year I'm working with National AJET (National Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching). We're elected from the JET body to function kinda like a student body government, only instead of working with teachers and principals, we're working with government councils and ministries.

So I spent 2 weeks surrounded by the sort of people who raised $20,000 for orphans in Somalia last year. Or have lived in 4 countries. Or speak 7 languages. And for 2 weeks, the things these people do and have done was like someone spitting in my face. Suddenly, what I was doing wasn't enough.

Don't get me wrong, the things I have done are impressive. I'm not getting down on myself for "only" speaking 5 languages. BUT! I only speak 5 languages because they come easy to me. I don't really make an effort with them. I don't really make an effort with them. I don't really make an effort with anything. And that right there needs to change, my beautiful bloggy buds.

It's like life's a stream, and I'm just bobbing along, grabbing things that catch my eye as they float by. And then this song popped into my head, Go Hard or Go Home by E40. (It's all over the movie, STOMP THE YARD, which is how I know it.) It's been stuck in my head ever since. I'm making it my new theme song.

I'm going on the aggressive. Going after stuff. Making my own path. Been floating too long, about time I started swimming!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Not What You Know...

First off, head over to Steph's and check out her giveaway for an ARC of Anna and the French Kiss!


Write what you know.

That's the first piece of writer advice I ever heard. I might have been 8 or 9 at the time, so it always sticks with me as the epitome of writing advice.

The validity of this maxim shines on its own. If you know what you're talking about it shows. And you don't have to add content issues to all the other issues you might face (like grammar and plot).

I started thinking about this at Summer Sonic two weekends ago. (Yeah, I know. Who has time to get all philosophical at a music festival? Apparently me.) So, Taylor Swift introduced almost every one of her songs with how she feeling at the time she wrote it. And it occurred to me that's one of the reasons I felt so connected to her music. It wasn't something a random songwriter developed according to a trend or something. It was a girl, crying, rejoicing, getting revenge, etc.

Then when I got back to the hostel, youtube informed me of Eminem's new song featuring Rihanna. As a Bajan (Barbadian) I make a point of listening to every single song I encounter by Rihanna (or Shontelle or Livvi Franc or Jaicko...). The song, Love the Way You Lie is about domestic abuse. Anybody can sing about abuse, but this song has so much more credibility because it was Eminem and Rihanna.

There are definitely perks when you write what you know.

But you can't always write what you know can you? You only get one body. Maybe you'll change careers 3 or 4 times. You probably will only go to one college. You'll probably only live in one country, or even two. When you think about these things, you realise if you only write what you know, then there are only a finite number of stories you can tell. In addition certain genres- sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy- just wouldn't exist.

It's okay to write things you don't know too. It will take more research on your part and more work. But you can still weave a wonderful tale without having lived it. That's why it's called fiction and not autobiography.

What you really need more than knowledge is passion. Taylor Swift and Eminem both make their money singing their lives. But they're not just singing what they know, they're singing who they are. Things that are important to them. Things that define who they are.

When you don't know it shows. But, in this internet age, it's not too hard to acquire knowledge. When you don't care... Well, there's no easy fix for that.

You'll be just fine writing what you now. But even if you want to step outside that framework and write a character who lives in another country or does a different job or has different opinions, that's fine. As long as the story is about something important to you.

In short, you don't need to write what you know, but you should always write who you are.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Eminem- Time Travel Tuesday

I'm not the world's biggest fan of rap- if it weren't for my love of fried chicken, the Black community would have kicked me out years ago- but I came across this new duet between Eminem and it sent me into the vault.

Love the Way You Lie- Eminem ft Rihanna (2010)

Back in 2005, he explained some of the negatives of the rap game in Like Toy Soldiers

Probably, the first Eminem song you remember is My Name Is (1999)

Stan, 2000, featuring Dido, is still one of my faves.

Cleaning out my Closet, 2002

His biggest success, chart-wise, was Lose Yourself in 2002

Lu-lu suck to my lu! Momm

Hey hey peoples!

It's Monday! So, it's time for (da da-da dun!) what's on my mind. I've just got a quick thought for you.

A little while back, I did a series on personality. I told you I'm an ENFP (Myers-Brigg). One of the traits of the ENFP is "perfectionism."

Until reading that, I'd never thought of myself as a perfectionist. I've been back and forth about whether I'm an ENFP, because of this and other discrepancies. Then I read a different description of the ENFP's perfectionism: "Either you're awesome at something, or you don't do it at all."

And that's me. If I can't be awesome, is it really worth it?

You see the problem with that? I only try with things I'm a natural at. And when you really think about it, if I'm already a natural, I really don't need to try at it. The other inherent problem is that there are some things you're meant to suck at. Everybody wobbles on their first try at riding a bike, snowboarding, skating, pogo sticking (is that even a word?) but some stick it out to become Olympic Champions.

And if they'd never stuck it out, the whole world would be worst off!

Are you like this too? Do you prefer to not do unless you can do well? Are you depriving the world of the next Jennifer Hudson? Or even the next William Hung? :)

What are you afraid to suck at?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Summer Sonic 2k10

Here are the highlights from Summer Sonic, the music festival I went to last weekend.

Here I am with another Bajan friend. We were just sitting around at the dance stage listening to some Japanese chick whose name we couldn't pronounce while we waited for K-Os.

30 Seconds to Mars' lead singer invited anyone who crowd surfed onto the stage. It was crazy!

Dancing to Beyonce's Ego.

Then I gave up Nickelback and headed back to the Dance Stage for Eve, but she cancelled. WAAA!!! I caught a bit of Keri Hilson, before heading over to the Marine Stage for...

JAY-Z!!! That tiny person in the right hand corner- that's Jay. You can also see him on the big screen.

Quote of Day 1: Egyptians have big meat!

Day 2!

Jason Derulo was too sexy for his shirt. I missed most of Orianthi on a bathroom break - the line was stupid long- and forgot to take a pic when I got back.

Omigosh! A Rupee towel!!! Rupee, for those who don't know, is a Barbadian one hit wonder who sang, Tempted to Touch. It went to number 1 on Billboard Dance charts and was on the soundtrack of one of the James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) movies.

I was minding my own business in the Ladies line, when a samba carnival wondered by.

This giant Beach Ball belonged to a Korean boy band, Big Bang. If you'd asked me before I came to Japan about things I didn't expect to do here, playing with Korean balls would definitely have made the list ;)

After getting moshed half to death during Sum41 (seriously a fully grown male body hitting you in the back of the head when your neck was inflamed days before is not fun), I finally made it to the front.

Security doesn't let you take pictures to protect the artist's privacy. That's the most ridiculous excuse I've ever heard. They're on stage. If they wanted privacy, they'd stay in their house! Anyhow, I couldn't take any pics at the front. So I don't have any pics of A Tribe Called Quest, Taylor Swift or Stevie Wonder.

I am a Taylor Swift-aholic, so I really enjoyed that. (Random fact, Taylor travels with her own mike and stand.) At the start of the set, a guitarist threw a pick and I caught it, but I gave it to the girl behind me who seemed to be swooning even more than me. I was thinking that had to be enough good kharma to get me through the rest of the year. But by the end of the set, I was kinda thinking maybe I shoulda kept the pick. Then Taylor's Mom came around.

Me: You're Taylor's Mom aren't you?
TM: Yeah.
Me: Nice to meet you!

She handed my two Taylor Swift bracelets: one brown, one black.

Me: Thanks!


Then it was time for Stevie Wonder! The honest truth is that I was looking forward to Taylor Swift more than Stevie. Don't let the black people know, they'll revoke my right to be black! As I told you, Taylor's music speaks to me. But I appreciate the greatness that is Stevie Wonder and I felt a little lightheaded just breathing the same air as him.

The girls who'd been behind me finally made it to the front when they guy next to me left (including the one I gave to the pick to). Turns out their ex-pat Japanese-Americans. We talked for a while and then one of them decided to add me on facebook. She asked what I was doing here, I told her teaching. She totally thought I was a HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT!!! Yay for my parent's super-young genes. Although I'll be grey in 4 years or less. :(

Stevie brought out his oldest son, Montaz, probably in his 20's, to sing with him, and introduced his 2 youngest sons at the end. I was surprised that he walked on by himself. They'd clearly measured the stage very carefully. Stevie Wonder's management is badass too. They told the concert organisers exactly where they could have cameras (even offstage) and where the photographers could stand and when they could stand there. It was amusing to watch. :)

Here's the set-up for Stevie's 10 member band, not including the 7 member Asian Drum section or the Japanese choir, or the 3 backup singers.

Exhausted and grungy, but super happy.

Any excuse for fireworks in summer in Japan, but I think this awesome festival was reason enough to celebrate.

Quote of Day 2: That was totally worth fainting for!

Bye Bye Summer Sonic!また来年!I hope next year is even awesomer! My wish list, Rihanna, Shontelle, Katy Perry(who was supposed to be there last year), Michael Buble, Brad Paisley, Lily Allen and Eminem. Among others, but I don't want ot be greedy.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Life in Book Titles

So, I'm stealing this one from Sarah Enni, who also stole it - we writers are some horrible low-lifes aren't we?

I'm only using titles of books I read or reread this year.

* Describe Yourself: Pippi Longstocking
* How do you feel: The Brightest Star in the Sky
* Describe where you currently live: City of Beasts
* If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
* Your favorite form of transportation: In Her Shoes
* Your best friend[s are]: Wicked Lovely
* What do you look for in a romantic interest? Rush
* What’s the weather like: The Fire in the Sky
* Favorite time of day: New Moon
* What is life like to you: Catching Fire
* Your fear: Hunger Games
* Thought for the Day: Thirteen Reasons Why
* What did you do today: As You Wish
* My soul’s present condition: Good In Bed

If you choose to do one of these, send me a link and I'll post it! You don't have to use books you've read this year, if that's too difficult.

On an aside, I've read 24 new books for the year. I'm a bit disappointed :(

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Story Within Story

Have you seen Inception yet???

I absolutely loved it. What a well-woven story! And, like all really good stories, it inspired some thoughts that could be relevant to the stories we have yet to write. I'll try and tell you about them using only the trailers and the first few minutes of the film. Don't want to spoil it for anyone. :)

In the movie, they mention the concept of a dream within a dream. But let's look at a slightly different idea: a story within a story. From the trailers, we discover that the movie is about the power of dreams. In the opening scenes, we find out that the MC is trying to get home. It's a story within a story, and only as the film goes on do we discover the depth of meaning of each of the elements and how they relate to one another.

After finishing the film, I realised what an important concept this is. A good story is like a piece of cloth: a series of interwoven threads. Some threads are more important than others, but every thread strengthens that piece of cloth. Take Harry Potter, for example. That story could have been told with any random kid as the hero. But it's so much stronger because Harry's parents have been killed by Voldemort. Or let's look at The Hunger Games. The Peeta/Gale scenario is not neccessary for the distopia, but it makes it that much better.

That is story within story. Why do the characters want these things? What drives them? What makes them who they are? What's on their mind when they can't sleep at night?

These are the things that pull us into the film, or book, or song. That connection, where we feel like it could be us.

In the end, Cobb is just a man yearning to get home, Harry is just a boy yearning for his parents' love, and Katniss is just a girl who's confused about boys.

And that's why we love them, because we identify.

Is there a story within your story?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taylor Swift - TTT

The Time Machine isn't going very far back today. Partially because I'm exhausted, and partially because I had the most amazing concert experience this weekend.

Taylor Swift had her start back in 2006. Or rather, that's when she started singing. She'd been writing since she was 14. It's probably not cool to be 28 and totally love Taylor Swift. Whatever! I do. So there :P She's about a lot of the same things I am, and her music makes me happy. She makes me believe in horoscopes, because we are that much alike and born 2 days (and 8 years) apart.

Today Was a Fairy Tale is her most recent single. It's on the soundtrack of Valentine's Day, and it totally encapsulates how I felt after seeing her live!

Taylor wrapped up her set on Sunday with her fourth single, from 2008, Picture to Burn!

Our Song (2007) was the first Taylor Swift single I ever heard, and I was hooked!

I'm such a romantic! How could I resist the ultimate Love Story (2009)?

It's not every day you get to ride off into the sunset on a White Horse (2008)

Sometimes I fly so high, I'm Fearless (2010)

One of my faves, because I love the concept and I love jumping around like I'm crazy!!! You Belong With Me (2009)

By the way, I'm back in my town now, so I should be back poking around on your blogs soon. Yay! But I'm off again on Friday... lol!

Monday, August 9, 2010

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Time for another Monday on my Mind.

What's on my mind this Monday? You guys! You rock!

I didn't have the best day on Thursday. In the end, it all did work out, but it looked a bit shaky for a while. And then I posted about it. And you guys were all over it. Bad day??? No bad day is badder than my Bloggy Buddies!

And that's not all you do. You're on here, some of you every day, reading what I have to say.

I am not an expert on writing. There are tons of subjects I'm qualified to talk about- Japan, languages, personality theory, the Caribbean... writing is not one of them. And yet, you guys come here and read my musings. The craziest thing is that I only actually know two people who read this blog. All the rest of you have just wondered in on your own. And you've stayed!

I can't tell you how much of a vote of confidence that is. Maybe the madness I spew isn't quite so crazy. Maybe I do have half a clue what's going on!

I have to thank you guys for being such an inspiration. The fact that you come here makes me try my hardest to give you something worth reading every day. And your support makes me know I have to succeed. Because if I never polish a book, and have agents and editors backflipping through flaming Froot Loops to sign me, then what does that say about you choosing me?

And so for all that you are to me, and all that you do for me, I say thank you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

First the Bad News

It's been a tough two weeks.
I've worked 14 or 15 hours more days than not.
I managed to get some unpronounceable thing in my neck inflamed, and was pretty much disabled on the only 2 days I had off.
I've spent way more money in Tokyo than I intended to.

And then, today happened.

Yesterday, I mailed home some of the things I wouldn't need: my formal clothing that I used at the conferences, the books I was reading (including Catching Fire which I bought in the huge bookstore in Shinjuku- can't wait for MockingJay!), my handbag- the zipper's stuck anyway. I came pretty close to mailing home my house key. Wouldn't have been that big a deal, because I can get in the house without it.

What I did mail home was the key to my lock box. And my lock box contains my Summer Sonic Concert tickets :(

I spent an hour on the roof of the hostel, trying to be MacGuyver and pick the lock. No luck.

Step 2- I went down to the front desk and explained that my key had been mailed 600 km away, and that I needed the tickets for Saturday. I explained all in Japanese, even though the staff speak English- I had no intention of letting the English speaking guests hear my idiocy!

Eventually, they found me a lock smith (the first guy was charging $100!!!) and I set off for Ueno, which is only 3 stops on the train. Of course I got hopelessly lost. So I called the place, and the guy kept telling my left instead of right and then grumbling when I ended up in the wrong place. So I gave up on him and walked into the store in front of me. It turned out to be a casino. Bad! As a government employee, me being in casinos is frowned upon. Anyhow, casino guy walked me to the locksmith, who was right next door. Now if only he could give directions, and all maps in Japan didn't suck. (I had a map, but maps in Japan are pretty much unreadable.)

The locksmith took 37.5 seconds to open the lockbox. I kid you not. The criminal in me SUCKS!!! I'm spending all next week trying to pick that lock. At least he only charged me ten bucks.

So, I got my tickets, but now I was severely late for my doctor's appointment on the other side of Tokyo. I barely made it in time. After my ten minutes of electro-massage, I decided to treat myself.

Baskin Robbins' Fantastic Island started the ball rolling. Then I mailed a friend in Tokyo and arranged to hang out tomorrow night. Then I watched the new Naruto Shippuuden movie.

1. I love Naruto so I was floating on a cloud just from purchasing the ticket.

2. Then I discovered a stack of movies I want to see. Inception, Salt, and the new Ghibli (I don't know the English name) are all on, and I might go see all of them tomorrow :), plus Resident Evil 4 (Biohazard in Japanese) and Karate Kid come out soon. I love movies.

3. Then they showed the trailer for the Bleach movie, which comes out December 4- I also love Bleach :) especially the movies!

4. Then they showed a hilarious short about Naruto and a genie. It was from Naruto's first series, and it was fun to see the whole crew as kids again. Plus, I was proud that I understood almost every word.

5. Then the Naruto Shippuden movie was AWESOMESAUCE. And I realised my friends might have to wait 6 months to a year, but I can watch it now when it's 5 days old because I can (kinda) understand Japanese. And I thought that was so KOOL!!!

So all's well that ends well.

PS. This post is completely random. Maybe life will go back to normal when I go home on Monday.

PPS. Naruto's last name is Uzumaki- whirlwhind, and Minato (his father's) last name is Namikaze (wave-wind). Random cool Japanese fact! :)

PPPS. Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder this weekend- provided there's no more drama.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vonnegut's #4

Firstly, since it's a Write Away Wednesday, I had to share this post from the fantabulicious, Sarah Enni. ">YA characters as defined by Nintendo! Check it out!

And on to tha biz...

Kurt Vonnegut presented 8 rules of short story writing. This is one set of rules I actually like. (Y'all know me and the rules.) Maybe some day I'll examine them all, but for now, let's look at number 4.
"Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action."

Can you sense that that rule's got me spastic?

To be fair, these rules were written for short stories, but still, some authors seem to have convinced themselves that 12 pages of desription or worldbuilding or some other background info is fine.

It's not.

Background is just that. BACKground!

The whole story may be dependent on it, but in the end, it's a base, not the story. In my opinion, a page should not go by, without some character development or plot development. Some people might think that trying to develop plot or character on every page is limiting. But for sure, you can't afford to have an entire chapter where neither the character or the plot moves. Leave out exorbitant descriptions of landscapes or houses or mythical animals. When we want that sort of detail on those things, we watch National Geographic or the DIY channel. NONfiction.

Add background to your stories like you'd add baking powder to a cake. Sprinkle lightly and mix throughout. That's the same way we notice background in real life. We don't ask someone to stop speaking so we can note the colours of the walls and layout of the kitchen. In real life, we notice actions and people. In fiction, we read for plot and character.

And every page without it is a reason to put a book down.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Headliners: Stevie TTT

The Headliner on the second day of Summer Sonic (THIS WEEKEND! AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!) is Stevie Wonder. As promised, today, we're heading back in time with Stevie.

Perhaps his most successful song, I JUST CALLED TO SAY I LOVE YOU, 1984

My favourite version of the birthday song, which appropriately came out in the year of my birth, 1981!

I'm being totally biased and picking my faves, because really, how do you choose Stevie Wonder's biggest hits? This next one, TOMORROW ROBINS WILL SING, is from 1995.

I will be completely OVERJOYED (1986) when I get to see this man LIVE!!! ;)

And I guess I should let you guys know that YOU ARE THE SUNSHINE OF MY LIFE (1973)!!!

SHELTER FROM THE RAIN is from 2006. The man has been charting for 5 decades! That is greatness!

Time to wrap it up, because I could post Stevie forever. Let's take it back to 1970. SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, I'M YOURS!

Hope you enjoyed it. I'm off to continue my attempt not to have an aneurism. STEEEEEVIEEEE!!! AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!!! :D

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pain in the Neck! Monday on my Mind


Once upon a time, all the body parts had an argument about which part was the most important.

"We couldn't walk without us," said the legs.
"We'd starve without me," said the stomach.
Then Bot-Bot (the butt) started, "Well, I-"
The hands interrupted, "Why you don't hush? All you do is stink up everything!"
The parts all laughed.

But Bot-Bot's feelings were hurt and he shut up and ignored the other parts.

No waste could pass, and after a while the other parts started feeling sick. The legs couldn't walk straight, and the stomach started to churn.

"Bot-bot! We're sorry!" called the hands.
"You are important!" added the heart, who was beating irregularly.

Bot-Bot was so angry, he didn't hear the other parts for quite a while. But by the time he finally calmed down and let out the waste, all the parts had realised that it didn't matter which was the most important, they all had a role to play.

Disclaimer: This is a re-telling of a tale I found in a newspaper in Barbados years ago. "Bot-Bot" is one of the many pet names we have for "butt."

So, I managed to do something to my neck between lugging around a huge backpack and working three 14-hour days.

It was bad! Any time my shoulders got out of alignment, I would experience a paralysing pain shooting from neck in every direction. It's no easy task keeping your shoulders aligned. Any time your hips or knees get too far out of alignment, the shoulders go too. I spent two days walking around, trying to move my entire body as a unit. You have no idea how hard it is to put on pants without moving your neck and shoulders. Bet you've never noticed you even use neck muscles to sneeze!

Afterwards, I got to thinking- because I was very incapable of thinking during the pain, I'm really bad with pain- that there are lots of times life is like this. I mean, you never hear anybody praying, "Thank God for the use of my neck," do you?

But there are lots of times when little things we've never thought about go wrong. And even though they're tiny enough that we've never thought about them, they make our lives miserable. What's it Joni Mitchell said? You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Let's look at it from another angle. We love to put things in hierarchies. Y is more important than X but less important than Z. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of times that hierarchies are important. If you've got a broken leg and your heart has stopped, you best believe that the doctors are going to deal with your heart first. But it's all too easy to get so caught up in hierarchy that we forget that the little things matter too.

We hear arguments on all sides about what we should develop more, and what we should work on first: plot, characters, language, etc. But at the end of the day, it all matters. Because you favour characters, that doesn't mean that your plot can be non-existent or that your language can be painful to read.

Whichever matters most, all of your elements have to work together. Otherwise your story will be nothing more than a pain in the neck.

And that's what's on my mind this Monday.