Thursday, September 30, 2010

BANNED! Books Week: The Color Purple

The awe-tabulous Tahereh is having a Banned Books Bonanza. All over the interwebs people will be blogging about banned and challenged books today. Head on over to her bloggie to find other bloggers' posts.

THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker

from back cover:

"The Color Purple is the story of two sisters- one a missionary to Africa and the other a child wife in the South- who remain loyal to one another across time, distance and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of live."

Dialect- The grand majority of the book is written just as Celie talks. For example, she writes "ast" instead of "asked." It takes a while to get used to, but like any other dialect, once you've got it down, it adds authenticity.

Letters- The entire book is written in letters. This also takes some gettting used to, but there are advantages to it. It gives the MC a chance to talk directly to the audience and it makes it easy to highlight both daily events and major life-changing ones.

So actually, both of the "minuses" end up being positive...

You read the back cover blurb? Well, that's the plot. That is NOT what the book's about. Nopes!

The Color Purple is about everything.

Take a minute. I know that's hard to swallow.

It's about everything. It's about being black and being white. It's about being a woman and being a man. It's about being rich and about having nothing. It's about America and England and Africa. It's about religion. It's about incest. It's about homosexuality. It's about family. It's about forgiveness. It's about perseverance. It's about love.

I know you guys hear me talk about my brain imploding a lot. But after I finished this book on Tuesday night, it just might have. I just lay in bed for 2 hours thinking about it. I'd never read a book about everything.

But even though it's about everything, it doesn't seem to make many judgement calls about anything. Celie relates everything just as it happens. She's accepted her life for what it is, and is just telling her story to God. Religion is the only exception. As Celie goes back and forth between believing and not, she debates religion and God.

Her friend Shug tells her once, "God is everything...Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that and be happy to feel that, you've found It...My first step away from the old white man was the trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything."

Right on the same page they mention the color purple.

And that's just how I felt when I finished the book. Like everything is a part of everything is. And the world is big and immense and I'm such a tiny part. Yet I'm everything.

Also, I'd like to say that people have this thing about "insert ethnicity here" books. I'd just like to say The Color Purple is NOT a black book. It's a human book. And so, I just have two more words to my review.


Why Books?

Welcome to all the new followers. I've trickled past 100 now, and while I don't put that much stock in the numbers, it's nice to know someone's listening. *waves*

There's something that's been on my mind for a while. Before banned books week even. I think it started with the Ellen Hopkins Texas mess. I'd heard of book censorship before, but it doesn't affect me like it does Americans (and to lesser extent Brits)-because where I come from that's not how we roll- so I had to be entwined in the online community for it to be more to me than a passing news article. Anyhow the thing that's been bugging me is "Why Books?"

Other media have this progressive partial censoring going on. I'm not a big fan of cussing. I'd never even said a cussword til after my teen years. One of my best friends swore- and still swears- like a pirate that disturbed a beehive, so I wasn't sheltered. Still, it didn't float my boat. I don't mind the well placed choice word or two, but there are some tv shows and movies where it seems the only adjectives they know are 4 letter ones.

But when a movie has cussing, that's no reason not to show it on tv. They just insert *BLEEP* here. And there may even be "clean" flim versions. For example, growing up, I had a fave movie that I used to watch on TNT. I watched this movie maybe 30 or 40 times on TNT over the course of several years. I do not recall a single *BLEEP*. Then I bought a copy of the DVD. And if you could find a 10 second stretch of dialogue with no cussing, you found a lot.

Same thing happens in music. Whole songs are hardly ever censored for sparse cussing. They just *BLEEP* it. In fact, some artists even produce "cusless" versions of their album for sale. You'll find the "clean" right next to the "warning: explicit lyrics" too, so it's not like you don't know. Still, that's okay somehow.

But not when it comes to books.

Noone even suggests you produce *BLEEP*ed versions.
Noone suggests you put a "Warning: explicit material" or "Graphic Violence" sticker on them.
Noone suggests that you give them a rating "PG13"

It's all or nothing.

Well, today for the first time, I've actually come up with two reasons for that.

Movies have been a round a little over a hundred years. Recorded music, a little more than that. Written works have existed since almost the beginning of time.
Books originated in a time before there was a concept of moderation. It was all or nothing in everything, everywhere. The world wasn't round, so you couldn't gradually curve around it. It was flat, you'd just fall off the edge.

So books with "objectionable" content were burned in mass. Because the release of one of these books into society, would cause the downfall of everything. -Insert overly dramatic music here.-

As a linguist, I studied the burning of early English language bibles in Translation history. Bibles were written in Latin. Only the well educated spoke and read Latin. So by calling English bibles heresy and burning them, the masses still had to come to the educated for their religion.

Yeah, all the wrong reasons even back then.

Anyhow, point being- all or nothing.


Yes, yes, the publishing industry. Books cost them a lot. But who else?

What plays on radio and tv has huge implications because of ADVERTISING. I don't like to think that advertisers call all the shots, but they do a fair share. For example, on occasion, a singer will get themselves in serious trouble. And then you'll hear their radio appearances being cancelled, because the stations are afraid of losing advertisers.

The reverse is also true. If they universally censored all artists who cussed, rap and hiphop stations probably couldn't exist. (You can probably count on one hand the number of artists with a major following that have never cussed in a song- okay, maybe not that bad, or well, maybe...) And then all those advertisers would not have a way to reach that demographic. Tons of clothing stores, and hair product producers and lawyers, and doctors, would all go out of business for losing their market.

Nothing of the sort happens with a censored book. It's just an author, a publisher, an agent, and a bookstore or ten.

What about you? Why else do you think that the sort of censorship in the book world only happens here?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Traits of Compelling Characters

First, our winner of WHEN ROSE WAKES!

Congrats to E.J! EJ, watch your inbox.

Also, don't forget you can enter the Banned Books Giveaway til 11.59 pm EST tomorrow.

The fabulastic Sarah Enni is giving away a signed copy of Mockingjay.

Okay, Elana held a blogfest on compelling characters. My mind, being the slippery thing that is, I totally forgot. Apologies Elana. But I'm here now, 2 days late, and 2 yen short. Or something. :)

I can't scientifically list what makes characters work. So here's a list of characters I'm drawn to and why I'm drawn to them.

The character that's just like you.

No, I'm not gorgeous, nor am I a fashionista, but I identify with Serena van der Woodsen from Gossip Girls. I'm pretty notorious for my bad decisions and to my mind the best way to solve a problem is still to hop on a plane.

The character who makes everything bad, totally sexy.

He's Chuck Bass. Need I say more.

The character you're supposed to hate, but secretly root for.

He starts out as an evil character. But then we see why he's driven to do what he is. Soon he begins to question what's wrong and right, instead of just doing what he must. And I just couldn't help but cheer for him. (Zukko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.)

The character who makes you wish you had a time machine.

Hannah Baker made me want to reach into the book and hug her. I wanted to make all her problems go away.

The character who's a complete twatfur, but who you have to back anyway.

You know the type- klutz good guy. Mr. Bean, that dude from Get Smart. Adorably idiotic.

The One you wish you were.

For me it's Bianca from the Duff. I wish I was tough like her.

The bada$$

This guy (or gal) is so bad, you want to apologise for watching their movies or reading their books. Just in case they take offence and whup yo' a$$. This is also the one who makes you try running up a wall, only to almost dislocate your hip. Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris characters are also in this group.

The one that you've considered marrying even though they're fictional.

Swoon. Legolas. It's not just that Orlando Bloom is sexy- and he totally is. Legolas is just my Prince Charming. Gentle, yet strong. Wise and understanding... Yeah, swoon.

What kinds of characters pull you in?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tweet Tweet and Library War

Firstly, I'd just like to announce that I'm now on TWITTER!!! Yeah, finally. @ClaireDawn. Don't worry, I won't fill up your inboxes with every single thing I've eaten for the day. Feel free to join me. Or not.

A couple Friday's ago, I decided to pick up a few DVD's at the library. I think my library is the coolest. There are no English books. BUT it's the most borrowed from (per capita) library in all of Tohoku (the 6 prefectures of this region) and no 26 in all of Japan. And of course they rent DVDs.

So I picked up LIBRARY WAR. My Japanese is not good enough that I always get everything. And some stuff is harder than others. I watched the first two episodes without really knowing what was going on. A girl was in a bookstore when armed officers came in and starting throwing the books away. Then another guy came in, showed a badge and stopped the officers from fighting with the girl over a book she wanted to buy. The girl went on to do military training and join the Library Task Force.

I had to go to wikipedia, to really get what it was about, since the DVD I got from the library had no subtitles.

Here's the premise. In Japan, there's a Freedom of Information act which says that noone can censor libraries. In the anime/manga LIBRARY WAR, the National government passes another law to throw away any material that may corrupt society. This armed force is called the MBA. Local governments form anti-MBA forces to protect books. There is all out fighting, automatic weapons, helicopters, and libraries! What more could you ask for in Banned Books Week?

If you're interested, click on the linky for episode 1, subbed in English. Whether or not you're into anime, you should try to read a banned book this week. And feel free to join THMafi and Le Rejectionist and review your fave banned book on Thursday.

Also, don't forget, you've got til 11.59 to enter the WHEN ROSE WAKES giveaway.

And until Wednesday to enter the Banned Books giveaway.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kindergarden Sports

It's Friday!

You know how we roll. Tidbits from my crazy life- usually about Japan. Lately, Japan has been keeping the crazy on rapid-fire, so I've got lots of pics and vids.

Thursday was the Fall equinox. It was also a holiday here. (As was Monday. Between those and school rest days, I only taught one day this week!) And Thursday was also Kindergarden Sports Day.

It started out with a mini-matsuri (festival) where the 5/6 yr olds played taiko and the rest of the school pulled a float.

The kids march on for the Opening Ceremony.

The Kindergarden does this cheer every year. It says stuff like "Fire trucks are red, Ambulances are white." Red (aka) and white (shiro) are the teams at all school sports here. A! A! O!

Here's Sumire (3yr olds) with the "Goldfish Got Out" Race. You had to crawl through the tube, grab a plate, pick up the goldfish, throw it in the pool and run to the finish line.

Is that an eyeball with a body? Yep! He's Medama (which is Japanese for eyehead). He's from Ge ge ge no Kintarou. Actually he's Kintarou's father. He died, but then he decided that he didn't want his son to be an orphan, so he came back as eyeball! In this race the kids had to find their parents who were hidden behind the Medama things with just their hands poking out.

The Principal of one of my elementary schools. Every year, they find some madness to make the invited guests do. This year, we had to put on an apron and a headscarf and sweep a beachball down a track, around a cone and back. I did pretty well, since I'm (was) a hockey player.

Tanpopo (the name of the 4 yr old class) doing their dance. Crazy Pink Shoes is in this class. She's guaranteed to entertain with her energetic spazzness.

The beginning of Himawari (5 yr olds) dance. This is their last sports at kindergarden. My babies grow up so fast! My neighbour, P, was like "What if they kick the balls at us?" And I replied, "The won't kick the balls at the invited-" WHOOSH!

This game is the best. It's called Time Vocan. White Team parents have to flip the squares over so that the white side shows. Red team parents have to flip so the red shows.

Hope you enjoyed. Don't forget to check out my Banned Books Giveaway and the WHEN ROSE WAKES giveaway.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Talk Back Thursdays : Christopher Golden

Today we have author Christopher Golden in. You'll remember I reviewed his upcoming book, WHEN ROSE WAKES last week.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Christopher Golden to Points of Clarification. Thank you for agreeing to answer a few things for us, Christopher.

CG: My pleasure, Claire.

You’ve consistently brought us darker work, is WHEN ROSE WAKES in keeping with that vein? Tell us a bit about the book.

CG: I don't want to go into too much detail, but the set-up is fairly straightforward. Rose is a sixteen year old girl who wakes from a coma in a Boston hospital, having lost her memory. She knows that her aunts--who are her guardians--are her aunts, but beyond that, not much. They're peculiar women with old-fashioned ways, and some very strange habits, but they love her and do their best to help her reacclimate to the world. They sign her up for school, take her shopping, comfort her when she has nightmares...But Rose starts to think that perhaps they're not being entirely honest with her about her past. And there's this creepy woman who seems to be stalking her...

Wow, a fairy tale retelling! We’ve seen a million Cinderella’s, but Sleeping Beauty is rare. How did the idea come to you?

CG: I honestly couldn't tell you. Sometimes, when I'm very lucky, ideas just pop up, fully formed, and this was one of those times. It was...what happens when Sleeping Beauty wakes up? What if she woke up NOW?

You are quite the prolific writer with dozens of titles to your name? Tell us, how did it all start?

CG: Hmmm. If you mean when did I first want to write, I suppose I first dabbled all the way back in middle school. I wrote my first short stories in high school, and started my first novel, OF SAINTS AND SHADOWS, as a senior in college. It was actually during my senior year at college that I decided that I wanted to be a novelist. I graduated from college in 1989, had a fantastic job in New York for three years, and then sold my first novel in 1992 and quit the job. I've been a full time writer ever since.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

CG: My standard answer is to read as much as you can, and in different genres, to write as much as you can, to seek out an agent who loves your work, to attend conventions where you can meet other writers, and to educate yourself about the industry. With the current seismic shift in the publishing business, that last part is more important than ever.

Finally, plotter or pantser? (Do you outline your novels or just jump right in?)

CG: There's always some kind of outline. When I write with a collaborator, it's usually much more thoughtfully worked out in advance. But when I'm working solo, I tend to be more improvisational.

Thank you again for joining us, Christopher and good luck with WHEN ROSE WAKES.

CG: Thanks, Claire.

You're welcome!

WHEN ROSE WAKES is out September 28th. And you've got a chance to win a copy right here right now.

Just tell me, who's your favourite fairy tale character?

Today's contest is open ONLY in the US. You must be a follower to enter. Contest closes Monday, September 27th at 11.59 pm. The winner will have until midnight Thursday to contact me or I'll draw a new winner.

Good luck!

Also, don't forget to enter the Banned Books Giveaway.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My kid shouldn't see (Plus giveaway)

Maybe you got it from the horse's mouth. Maybe you heard the legal side from Michelle. Maybe you got the Christian take from Myra or Veronica Roth. Maybe C.J. Redwine made you cry.

At the heart of the matter, SPEAK, a book by Laurie Halse Andersen. The book is about a girl who doesn't speak up about being raped. Associate Professor, Wesley Scroggins thinks it's soft pornography and calls for it to be banned.

I'm going to weigh in with an opinion that I haven't seen in the booky blogosphere.

I agree.

I don't want my son to face these topics.

But it's not just YA literature. If I want him never to cross paths with these things then we need to ban all sensitive topics, violence, sex, language, etc from public television. But not just public television.

When you open a book, you have a fair idea of what you're getting. That's what blurbs are for. But my 6 year old could easily turn on the tv and see the opening scene from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. So we'd either need passwords or finger identification for cable. Or we need to get these movies censored there too.

Oh, and really when you think about it, there's nowhere that's got more violence and sex and suicides and everything else than the news. So we'll have to censor that as well.

And, heaven forbid, the poor kid were to go out and SEE someone do something bad. We'll have to have teams of scientists work on developping drugs for removing specific memories. And because the initial shock would be so great, we want to make sure noone wants to commit crimes, so we should have everybody fitted with those trackers like in PARANORMALCY (not a spoiler- happens in first few pages) that will just euphanise them when they do.

But dealing with euphanised criminals would be so traumatic for our happy sheltered offspring that we'd have to train a special force from Birth to deal with removal of the bodies.

That would be an ideal world!

Since it's so different from the one we live in, we should give it a new name. How about Panem?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your stance) we don't live in that world. And for the world we live in, sometimes we all need a little eye-opening. I'ma do my part and give you guys to win the books below in honor of Banned Books Week next week.

Laurie Halse Andersen's SPEAK is at the centre of the most recent censorship controversy.

This book was recently banned in Stockton, Missouri.

Ellen Hopkins was uninvited from a Texas book festival because of her books.

The Chocolate War has been in the top ten most challenged books 7 of the last 9 years. It is the third most challenged book this decade and the fourth most challenged of the 90s.

The Color Purple is one of the most frequently challenged classics.

I was fortunate enough to meet Maya Angelou. Her story is about as sad as any I've ever heard. This book was in the top ten most challenged in 2004 and was the third most challenged book of the 90s.

This YA classic is #16 on the most challenged this decade and #7 in the 90s.

This was a favourite of mine growing up. It tells the story of black kids growing up in the Deep South in the 30s and every thing they faced. It's the first book in a trilogy and just celebrated its 25th anniversary. It made the top ten most challenged in 2002.

TWO (random)lucky winners can win all EIGHT of these books. That's right. You're winning the whole slew. (I get a little crazy when I'm angry. But you knew that already, right?) Oh, this is open anywhere that The Book Depository ships.

All you have to do is blog. Blog about censorship or any of the 8 books up for grabs and leave a linky in the comments.

And the contest is retroactive, so if you've blogged about any of these since the first of September, then that post is eligible.

You've got until 11.59 EST next Wednesday.

Good luck.

I hope you're never afraid to SPEAK.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teen Mega Series

Time Travel Tuesday.

I saw a linky somewhere last week - sorry, I've totally forgotten where, with my brain being slippery and all- about the Babysitter's Club. I was hooked on those books. I read all of them. All 131 in the regular series. I even read a stack of the Super Specials and the Babysitters Mysteries.

It got me to thinking though. When I was growing up in the 80's and 90's, YA was all about contemporary mega-series. I kinda wonder what changed. These days, the longest YA series I can think of is Harry Potter. And that's definitely not contemporary.

The BabySitters Club by Ann M. Martin was one of the biggest series of the bi-decade. (Like my new word?) It spanned 13 years and 131 books (in the main series), produced several other book series, a tv series, a few movies, and a whole stack of merchandise. And yes, my friends and I were those geeks that knew every word of the theme song.

The 1995 movie. I can't believe how hooked I was on this. lol.

Looking back, Kristy, Mary Anne, Stacey, Claudia, Jessi, Mallory and Dawn were crazy one dimensional. And the cast was as politically correct as you could get featuring an Asian, a Black, someone with learning difficulties, a girl with diabetes, a redhead, a West Coaster (6 of them were from the East Coast). It was like they couldn't leave out anything or anybody. It was the Facts of Life in book form.

Here's a clip from the series. Corn-festa!

This series "only" produced 28 books over 11 years, but I LOVED it. It was a Christian series, but not one of the "drive Christianity down your throat types." It dealt with tough topics like suicide and abortion, but I guess that was okay because it took a moral stance.

I loved these. What 13 year old girl wouldn't love to have a horse? Apparently not many. There was a whole stack of series about horses in the 80s/90s. That and ballet. There were ballet series everywhere.

The Sweet Dreams series was a Teen romance (PG13 of course). It wasn't about a cast of characters, nor was it all written by one author. They just had a common theme- romance with high school aged stars. I actually remember the book in this pic. Connie (Consuela) tries to help her best friend (a guy whose name I forget) with his stand up routine for a school contest. The book left some kind of impression. I read it 15 years ago and I still remember!

Last, but definitely not least, the megaloth itself: Sweet Valley High. Started in 1983, it actually is the first of the Sweet Valley series predating the Sweet Valley Twins series by 3 years. This series had several spinoffs: Sweet Valley Kids (in elementary school), Sweet Valley Twins (6th grade), The Unicorn Club (7th grade), Sweet Valley Junior High (8th grade), Sweet Valley Senior Year and of course, the original SVU, Sweet Valley University. Several of the series had Super Specials and Mystery editions. Too many books to count.

Sweet Valley was about identical twins Elizabeth (the good twin with the ponytail) and Jessica (popular and mean who wore her hair loose). I honestly didn't read many of these, but they had the same feel as Beverley Hills 90210.

This may be the most 90's thing I've ever seen. lol

Oh, and btw, apparently they rereleased the series in 2008, and there's a movie comign in 2012! Wonder if the audience will be more teens or 30 year olds...

Do you remember these? What were your favourite series back in the day? And why do you think YA has moved away from the mega-series?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Your own idol

YA Highway's giving away a copy of Janice Hardy's BLUE FIRE.

Angela at The Bookshelf Muse is giving away critiques and a MENTORSHIP!!!

Stop by and enter!

Okey dokes, it's Monday. You know what that means. Monday on My Mind.

This week what's on my mind? Me. You. Self.

Has anybody ever told you you're fab? That's not a rhetorical question. Has anyone ever told you they admire you? Maybe you play a mean bass guitar, or you can sing higha than Mariah. Maybe you've got the body of a goddess, or you get nothing but net from the half court line. Maybe you've always gotten straight A's or your college thesis has all 10 letter words other than "the," "of" and "in."

For whatever reason, someone thinks the sun shines out of your patooty.

And you? You probably laugh it off. You probably don't think that thing you do is very awesome. You'd prefer to be like Kurt Vonnegut. Or Brangelina. Or Katniss. But let me let you in on a little secret. Maybe, just maybe those guys want to be like you. Maybe sometimes they wish they were good at that thing that comes so easily to you.

Vicious cycle.

Unless you break it.

Take a minute, think about it. What things about you absolutely rock? Be honest with yourself. We're all good at something.

At least for today, think about that thing you do, and appreciate it. At least for today, think, "I wanna be like ME."

Cause You rock!

Claire Dawn says so.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ninohe Matsuri

Last week, I posted on my town festival, Ichinohe Matsuri. In case you're wondering why the names are so similar, let me give you a quick Japanese lesson.

Ichinohe: 一戸
Ninohe: 二戸

As you can see, the second kanji is the same. It means "door." The first Kanji is a number. My town is "first door." Ninohe is "second door." There are 8 nohe's, from 1 to 9. There's no 4, because 4 is bad luck. One of the pronunciations of 4 is "shi," which is also the word for death. These doors go around in a circle. So my town, Ichinohe (first door) is next to Kunohe (ninth door) and south of Ninohe (second door).

But that really has nothing to so with anything...

Last week was Ninohe's festival. I didn't take anywhere near as many pics, but here are a few of the highlights.

Oooo! Legs! lol.

Some people decorated their yukata (summer kimono) with balloons.

Poor kiddies. One of Ninohe's elementary schools.

Even the Na'vi came out. Proof that the festival was out of this world! And just in case you wonder which group was crazy enough, that would be the hospital. All the crazy people in Ninohe seem to be doctors...

And then there was this guy. Erm... At least he was nice enough to pose.

Ninohe had 10 floats, compared to Ichinohe's 5. They're a city and we're only a town. Either way, we made up for it in spirit :)

Here's a vid of one of the dances. Ignore our running commentary :)

And the second dance.

Summer in Japan is fab! Fireworks, kakigori (snow cone-ish thing) and festivals out the wazoo!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Rose Wakes

I’m a Fairy Tale addict, so when I first heard about WHEN ROSE WAKES, I contacted him for an interview. Mr. Golden was fantastically awesome and gave me a chance to read an ARC (Advance Reader Copy).

First, here’s the cover blurb:

Ever since sixteen-year-old Rose DuBois woke up from months in a coma with absolutely no memories, she's had to start from scratch. She knows she loves her two aunts who take care of her, and that they all used to live in France, but everything else from her life before is a blank.

Rose tries to push through the memory gaps and start her new life, attending high school and living in Boston with her aunts, who have seriously old world ideas. Especially when it comes to boys.

But then Rose starts to have eerie dreams, vivid nightmares that she comes to realize are strangely like the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The evil witch, the friendly fairies, a curse that puts an entire town to sleep - Rose relives the frightening story every night. And when a mysterious raven-haired woman starts following her, Rose begins to wonder if she is the dormant princess. And now that she's awake, she's in terrible, terrible danger. . . .

I’m going to go ahead and get the one thing I didn’t like out of the way. The book dragged a little in the middle for me. I think it’s partially because we already know that she’s got some connection with Sleeping Beauty long before Rose does. But that’s a marketing issue, really.

That said, I loved it. As I told you, I’m a fairy tale-aholic, and I love fairy tale retellings. It was great to see a story other than Cinderella being rehashed. I also liked the fact that it’s a contemporary story. Rose is going to a regular high school and trying to fit in. She struggles as she tries to deal with the popular (and mean) girls and as she tries to figure out friendships and relationships. Her two aunts bounce along the spectrum from overprotective to hilarious. And there’s action like you wouldn’t believe.

A good read for anyone who likes YA or Fairy Tales!

WHEN ROSE WAKES will be released on September 28.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

And the moral of the story is?

So I've been lurking around on agent pages- Heaven knows why, I don't have anything even vaguely resembling a publishable manuscript- and something that comes up every once in a while is "I don't want a story with morals."

Er, hello?

On the best of days, this is mildly amusing. Otherwise it's annoying as hell.

Why don't they say what they mean?

Which is this: I don't want a book that preaches.

You wouldn't go to the grocery store looking for a new television set, would you? You'd head over to your local electronics place. In the same way, if you wanted to be preached at, you'd call up your preacher or go sit in a political meeting.

A book is first and foremost concerned with story.

But to say that a book shouldn't have morals is a blatant misrepresentation. Even if we ignore the fact that stories started out specifically as tools to teach morals. Even if we pretend that the us vs. them theme doesn't exist in almost all stories. We can't deny that some stories with morals are hot commodities.

1. TWILIGHT - Do I have to state the obvious? Bella throws herself at her "teenage" virgin boyfriend for all of 3 books and part of a fourth. And he refuses her until she's married. It's one of the oldest morals in the book. Literally.
(End Spoiler)

2. THE HUNGER GAMES - Even without reading the books, the commentary on war and government is obvious. There are also passing jabs at plastic surgery and capitalism.

3. PERSONAL DEMONS (Lisa Desrochers) - This book came out yesterday so you may not have read it yet. But an angel and demon fighting over a soul? Even Stevie Wonder can see them morals.

4. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA - These are widely reputed to be an allegory of the return of Jesus. Maybe, maybe not. But there's no denying the good vs evil thread. Infact...

5. Pretty much every fantasy tale ever written - I'm trying to think of a fantasy that's not all about loyalty to your friends, ignoring temptations, vanquishing evil, you know typical moral stuff. I can't come up with a single one.

The only one on this list that's not a hit of immesurable proportions (yet) is PERSONAL DEMONS. Clearly morals are sizzling stuff. But just like anything else, you can't just scream them, they need to be woven into the story. Humans are essentially moral creatures anyhow. And while we don't want our books telling us what to do, many of us like it when they make us think about it.

What do you think? Morals or no?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's Time Travel Tuesday! Hang out to your ooze, Charlie, we're going mutant!

Last week I watched TMNT with my neighbours. I grew up in the 80's. It was like my childhood all over again. And then, Tahereh asked "Which turtle are you?"

I grew up loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As kids, me and my brother owned pretty much every TMNT toy known to man.

Theatrical trailer for the first movie, which I saw at the Drive In. I must have been like 9.

Do you remember when the turtles ended up in a club in the second movie? Vanilla Ice and Ninja Turtles? Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!

And the trailer.

One of my fave scenes was Splinter asking the brothers: Were you seen? And they all say no, and then he pulls out a newspaper with them dancing at the club.
And of course, who couldn't love Tokka and Razar? Which one's the ugly one?

And the trailer for III.

This one was just a tad weird...

Here's TMNT's trailer. TMNT was the CGI version that came out in 2k7. I think this is so representative...

Oh, and to answer Tahereh's question, I was all about Raph. As a kid, red was my favourite colour, and since I've switched to pink and purple, red is still essential. Also, Raph is all passion. And that's me. What's life without passion. So what if you get captured every once in a while (or twice or forty times), passion RULEZ!

Let me sign out with the 3rd trailer for TMNT. Isn't Raphie just the bada$$test? And so buff and smexy! Swoon! Plus, Patrick Stewart is a voice! Patrick Stewart is a voice! How is that not pure win?

"I love being a turtle!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

But where do you poop?

Time for Monday on my Mind!

You're probably looking at the title of this post and thinking, "Erm, Claire, that's a pretty weird thing to be on your mind." Well, if you're looking for normal, you're in the wrong place. Try the second door on the left.


You know how I said I was only reading LOSING FAITH and PERSONAL DEMONS and then I was taking some time off from the bookshelf? Totally didn't happen. I read (= devoured) THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan last night.

[Disclaimer: I don't publish anything that you wouldn't find out in the first few pages, or in a summary, or back cover blurb without warning, so don't worry if you haven't read the book.]

So I'm reading along. And I'm enjoying the story. I'm willing to suspend my logic enough to go to this someday-in-the-future world. I'm even willing to accept the existence of zombies. But then there comes a passage that bugs me.

A few of the characters are forced to spend some periods of time together. They're always in each other's company. And it hits me. Where do they poop? And then I begin to think of other fantasy stories, particularly quests. LOTR, Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, etc. They all have these parts where characters are together for extended periods of time. Where did they poop?

After a good few minutes of thinking about this, another thought crosses my mind.

Maybe I shouldn't read at 2 am. lol.

Seriously though, I don't imagine most people think of character constipation as a plot hole. But it got me to thinking about other things that writers shouldn't just gloss over.

There are some writers (especially in fantasy and sci-fi, but it happens across the board) who feel compelled to explain every aspect of the world they create. I don't need that. If you tell me there is magic, I'm cool with that. You don't need to tell me why there's magic. JK Rowling doesn't feel compelled to give us an entire history of the wizarding world. Stephanie Meyer never tells us why vampires sparkle. Suzanne Collins never gets into great detail of how the world collapsed to create Panem.

And that's just fine.

The things that really need to be clear in fantasy and sci-fi are the same things that need to be clear in any other novel. What drove the protagonist to get up and do something? What is it about the love interest that pulls him or her in? What's the protag proud of? Ashamed of? In other words, the questions I need answered are all about character and plot. Not setting.

It's something I want to carry over into my own writing- never concentrating so hard on the forest that I lose sight of the trees. And now I know what to do every time I'm afraid of getting bogged down in mundane details. It's a simple question really?

Where do you poop?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ichinohe Matsuri!

The weekend before last was my town's festival. (My town is Ichinohe and the Japanese word for festival is matsuri.) Here are some snapshots. Hope you enjoy. I would have had them up sooner but last weekend was Ninohe matsuri. Summer is Cu-razy here!

(Warning: this post is full of pics and video, it may take a while to load. Also if you're interested in more vids, check out my youtube.)

Noda gumi on the first day of the festival. They've been lugging the float around for about 4 hours at this point, which is why they all look like Death.

Hashinaka gumi (Ha-shi-na-ka! Ha-shi-na-ka! Can you guess which neighbourhood is mine? lol) stopped every once in a while to sing from a fan. I think they were blessing the neighbourhood. Maybe.

The kids would all jump at a certain part of the song. Told you our neighbourhood's the coolest!

Saihouji gumi's float.

Our town's 4 Westerners and our Japanese friend, all dressed up in our yukata, ready to do the town dance.

My Junior High students. They clean up well, but I can still do the town dance better than them :P


Uwamachi gumi's float.

The back of the Hashinaka gumi float. (Ha-shi-na-ka!)

Hon gumi's float.

I believe this character is Tengu-san. If I paid any attention to Japanese folk tales, I might have a clue about his background. :(

Our float's driver. Even though we're manually lugging this thing up mountainsides (cuz all of Japan is a mountain) it has power steering.

We parked the float right in front of my house (2nd one with the green fence) so that a little old dude could sing the blessing. The little old lady in the yard is my neighbour, who randomly will stoop in your yard, causing you to almost trip over here. But she's better than Crazy Sickle, the old lady that smiles like she spawned Norman Bates, and who we've never seen without a sickle. Crazy Sickle picks plants in my yard at 6 am. She's scary and she has a sickle. I'm not stopping her!

My boss, the Superintendent of the Board of Education. It must suck to be in a position of power here. You know how the neighbourhood politician has to show his or her face at everything? So does the Superintendent. And for that matter, the Principals.

About to head up to the temple for the blessing. The words on my lantern and on my happi (robe) are - you guessed it- HASHI NAKA GUMI!!!

The back of Uwamachi's float, and two of my sannensei- 9th graders, or 4th formers or 15 year olds. In fact pretty much all the kids except the ones on the Saihouji float are my students. I teach the two "big" schools in town (208 and 195- yeah I know, laughable) so I see my kids everywhere.

Float chicken! Uwamachi on the left + Hashinaka on the right + ultra skinny Japanese road = hilarity!!!

Finally, the festival is over and Hashinaka gumi parks the float until next year.

Until next year, Sayonara!