Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas and a break

Merry Christmas everybody. And happy holidays to those of you who are celebrating anything else.

My apologies for not having been here for a bit. Somehow I thought I would actually make time to be online while I'm home in the sunshine-y Caribbean. Please excuse me while I cackle at my folly.

Also, I'm declaring 2011 The Year of Living Write. I'm going to be spending next year doing as much as I can for my writing process and my writing community. The number one way this will affect you will be in book giveaways. A giveaway every week.



Stay tuned for an interview with Beth Revis, author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, and the first contest on January 6th.

And since I'm only deceiving myself by pretending I will post, I think I'll take a break until then.

Please enjoy yourselves as you ring in the New Year. And don't do anything I wouldn't do.

Better yet, if you find something you think I wouldn't do, mail me and let me know about it.

Happy Holidays and a Prosperous New Year from us (=me) here at Points of Claire-ification.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Some things will never change

Born December 16
Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England
Flo Rida

Born December 17
Jacqueline Wilson
Sean Patrick Thomas
Betty Grable
Ray Liotta
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Alejandro Sanz!!!
Rah Digga

Sorry for disappearing, guys. My internet here (Barbados) went on the fritz. Thanks for all the birthday wishes. I'm 29. It's not a secret. I'm proud of every one of my years. :)

This past weekend was my 10 year secondary school reunion. Yes, I'm a member of the Millennium Class. And we had a lime. Let me pause here to explain the word 'lime'. I'm sure for most of you, lime is a fruit that is used in seasoning foods and drinks. For Barbadians (or Bajans, as we call ourselves) lime also means to hang out. It can be a verb or a noun. So you can say 'when we liming?' meaning when are we going to hang out, or 'leh we go to the lime' which is like, let's go to the place everybody's hanging out. LIME is also the name of the big telecoms company: Landline, Internet, Mobile, Entertainment. I think they were trying to promote the concept of being friendly, instead since the service is so poor, they end up being thought of as just hanging out and not doing no work.

So anyhow, we had a lime. And we were all sitting around talking. And it struck me how much like before we all were. I mean, we're all doctors and lawyers and insurance portfolio managers. And we still talk exactly like we did ten years ago. The subjects had matured, but the tone was the same. And even though some of us had not seen one another in 2, 5 or even 10 years, it was like we'd never left.

And this is how authors should be. Their books change. The topics change. The protagonists change. The settings change. And yet, I could tell an Eric Jerome Dickey or Lesley Pearce or Meg Cabot whether or not their names were on the spine. There's a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that keeps us coming back. I hope that some day my books will have that. No matter how long it's been, I hope my readers can come right back and fall into step.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Creative Exchange

Born December 14
Michael Owen
Vanessa Hudgens

Born December 15
Gustave Eiffel
J. Paul Getty
Brendan Fletcher


Well, I'm home. In Barbados. Just got here. It is SO HOT! I've got to go run around like a headless chicken soon, so this is just a quickie.

I went to my first creative exchange on Saturday. You know I've been 'in a critiquing relationship' with ElbieNY25, but this was my first time taking my poor lamb to the group slaughter.

It went pretty well.

A little wordy
Too many things introduced at once
Need to explain certain things if it's for the US market (which right now it isn't)

Great chapter endings
Natural dialog
Great voice

OMG! The FIRST thing said about my work was that it has great voice. Excuse me while I go have a heart attack. Or melt, considering that I left -4 degree (Celsius) weather yesterday and it's like 24 here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

First Drafts in music- TTT

Time Travel Tuesday is going to be a little different this week :)

Everything in writing is subjective, including the process. Here's what first drafts are like for me. With musical accompaniment for your listening pleasure.

Stage 1. Shiny New Idea.

OMG! This is brilliant. How have I not thought of this before? I want to write this right now. No, I want to write this yesterday. Last week even. Because this story is PERFECT. Too good to be true. (Can't take my eyes off of you, 1998, Lauryn Hill.)

Stage 2. Development.

After starting a few novels that fizzled into nothingness around 14,000 words, I got a little pickier about which ideas I moved forward with and even when I moved forward with them. The next stage of the process is to think. Will I stay interested in this book? If it ultimately sells will I be able to keep at it? Or will I want to eat my manuscript until my stomach explodes?

If you're a 'plotter', you'll spend this stage filling out lists, character sheets, flow charts, etc. But even if you're not a plotter, you should take a while to think about your story, characters and setting, so that you won't get washed too far out to sea on the first draft. (Thik it over, 1958, Buddy Holly.)

3. Pure Pants

(I just saw this on a British writers forum, and remembered that Brits refer to crap as 'pants'. For example, a guy said his first novel was pure pants.)

I'm a pretty hardcore pantser. That's not just a writing thing. I'm a pantser in life :) When I start to write, I'm armed with an idea of my characters, the premise, the setting, and 2 out of 3 for beginning, middle and end. The rest is pure adventure. Where will this go? And how will I get there?

Even if you're not a pantser, there are times the story just takes over. And things come out that shock even you, the writer. (I love this road, Emerson Drive, 2009)

4. The Swamp.

Eventually the honeymoon wears off. And I start to get bogged down. It gets difficult to push forward. I start to doubt whether the story is worth it. It's not different enough from everything out there. Noone will be interested. Suddenly, it's twice as much effort to get in the same amount of work. (Energy, 2008, Keri Hilson)

5. Hate Mail

Unholy walrus fins, Batman! This sucks! What was I thinking? I hate this story. Must I finish it? Please, Mommy, no. I want to hit it with a brick. And kill it. Til it's dead. And then I want to bring it back to life. And kill it again.

Generally, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Noone can say how long, but you come out of the other end and you start to feel a bit more 'maybe' and a little less 'WHERE ARE ALL THE ZOMBIES WHEN YOU NEED THEM???'(7 things, 2008, Miley Cyrus)

6. Wrap up

The end is in sight. The middle kind of sucked, but from here own out, I'm running full steam ahead. The story is kind of carrying me along for the ride. And even if it still feels kind of crappy, I'm far enough along to think. This is editable. (Up! 2002, Shania Twain.)

7. Owari! (Japanese for finished)

I type 'THE END'. And even though I'm exhausted- all my finished novels are nanowrimo products- I'm happy. Manzoku- a feeling of happiness and satisfaction so great that it feels your every fiber and you feel like you might just float away. (Celebration, 1980, Kool and the Gang- who, in case you didn't know, are still touring. They were in Japan last year.)

8. The Big Picture

Whether I'm blazing along the opening pages or slugging through the middle and crusing towards the end, a first draft has this way of being all-encompassing. Logically, you know there's so much more to go, but you still are tempted to try for perfection on the first go-round. After you finish the book and you get a little distance, you start to realise where the strengths lie. And what you can build on for your next draft. And you realise that Part 1 might be over, but really, this is just the beginning. (At the Beginning, 1997, Donna Lewis and Richard Marx.)

That's my first draft journey. What's yours like?

PS, I'm probably on a plane to New York by now. The coolest thing about flying from Tokyo to New York? I leave at 7.20 pm and get in at 6.20 pm. On the same day. I arrive an hour BEFORE I leave! International Date Line ROCKS!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hash tag edits

Born December 12
Gustave Flaubert
Sammy Davis Sr.
Frank Sinatra
Bob Barker
Bill Nighy
Shelia E.
Maiyim Bialik!!!! (I am so freaking over this!!!)

Born December 13
Christopher Plummer
Tamora Pierce
Steve Buscemi
Jamie Foxx
Taylor Swift

Go Check out Beth Revis' Epic Contest of Epic. It's, well, epic!

I know they say you should let your MS simmer for like a month and all. I will. At some point :)

I've been poking around in the first 5 pages, since I had the Creative Exchange with SCBWI Tokyo on Saturday night. I'll let you know how that went. Probably not 'til after I'm home though.

And next are the hashtag edits.

One of the articles recommended by YA Highway on one of the Field Trip Friday's was an article about using hashtags (#) in your writing. If you're in the middle of a creative run, where the words are coming so fast that you can't think, and you come across something that stumps you, don't stop. Instead put a hashtag and note.

It helped a lot during nano. Like when I needed to know about the mating rituals of peacocks, but I was trying to knock off 1,000 words in half hour on Write or Die.

After you finish your spurt or your draft, or when you're suffering from writer's block, you can search your document for hashtags, and look up all you need then.

So, really hashtag edits don't even count as an edit. It's still technically the first draft. I'm not breaking the rules :)

I made up an edit list since nano, too.

1. Hashtag edits

2. Plot edits
My MC drives at 15, despite the fact that you can't get a permit 'til 16 in Barbados. Plot hole the size of Rhode Island- which might be an itty-bitty state, but is a freaking huge plot hole!

3. Setting edits
I am not a fan of description. It slows the plot down. But what's the point of setting your book somewhere exotic, like my home island, if you're not going to use it. So I'm dedicating a whole edit to working my setting into the action.

4. Character edits
Would MC really do this? Or that? Would LI respond like this? Or like that? Why are BFF1 and BFF2 so similar? These are problems I'll tackle on this edit.

5. Line-by-line
La recherche éternelle pour le mot juste - the eternal search for the right word. This is probably going to be the longest of my edits. And the one that will send me chasing my own tail.

And then a re-read. And the book will be ready! For something. Not sure yet what :)

And, yes, I'm aware you can tackle more than one thing in an edit pass, but I'd rather not. I'm old-fashioned like that. I use my camera for pictures, and my calculator for multiplying. My phone can do both, but not as well or as easily. When I multi-task, life stays exciting, but I'm not as good as I could be.

And my Baby deserves the best!

Oh, also I figured out a name for my WIP.


It implies that there's an issue that needs dealing with AND
It's a common idiom, so it has a lighter, funner tone AND
By using 'wid' instead of 'with' it implies a dialect, and my book is set in Barbados.

I think it's perfect!

For now at least :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Land of no punishment

Born on December 10
King James I of Scotland
Michael Clark Duncan
Raven Symone

December 11
Fiorella LaGuardia
John Kerry
Mos Def

Japan is one of the most exoticised and misunderstood countries in the world. A large portion of this is due to Japan's insularity: physically, being a set of islands, and mentally, shutting themselves off from the rest of the world for so long- even now they're not fully 'open.'

People think that Japanese people are:

Amazingly hardworking
All skinny
All obedient
All into hi-tech gadgets

etc. (Can you think of any more stereotypes?)

Some of these are true in varying degrees. But none are as true as you think they are.

Take the obedience thing. Lots of people think Japanese people never step of out line. Ha!

Ha ha ha.
Ha ha ha ha ha.

Now that's out of my system- no, hold on-

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

K. Think I'm done.

Right, so obedience in Japan.

Two days ago, I was walking to class with the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE- In Junior High and many Senior Highs we team-teach with a Japanese teacher), when somethin came flying out of the classroom. When we got there, one of the kids was totally flipping out, kicking over desks and chairs and throwing stuff.

The entire class was in there. AND 2 teachers! Not including the JTE and the assistant JTE (yes there are 3 teachers in the classroom every time I teach at JHS.) And no one made any attempt to stop this kid. (I'm not allowed to 'discipline' which is usually great because I'm not a fan of telling people what to do, but even I would not have tolerated that.)

Eventually one of the teachers CONVINCED the kid to go next door. She talked to him for a few minutes and then came back to the classroom and started packing his things. Meanwhile, he was still kicking over everything in sight.

Then he left. Like went home, left. Without like going to the Principal or anything. From what I gather, HE decided to go home.

There is no way that situation would have flown at home, and I theorise it wouldn't fly in your countries either. When he started kicking, either a teacher or a student would have:

a. held him down
b. called for someone to help
c. smacked him with something
d. sent him to the Principal

You think Japanese people never step out of line, but the thing is if you want to there's really nothing to stop you. We Westerners know the rules, and know the consequences of breaking them. At school, we didn't break rules to avoid detention or lines or trips to the Principal. Or we broke the rules in secret. Or if we happened to be really, really angry and flip out, it was at the stage where we no longer cared what they did to us.

In Japan, they 'guilt' you into following the rules. Everyone is thinking what a bad Japanese you are for breaking the rules. But no one will say it. Eventually, you get to a point where you realise that no one will stop you, whatever you do. And if you don't care what people think, you can do whatever you want.

It's not just in the case of 'being bad', it's why lots of things happen. Like the nurse room kids- the kids who gave up on being in the mainstream classroom and spend every day in the nurse room. It's perfectly normal. And all the teachers act like they're not supposed to be somewhere else. Even at schoolwide events, they'll be with the School Nurse setting up mikes or something and not singing with 'their' class choir or running in the races. They've given up on being 'real students' and no one is going to stop them.

There isn't a deeper meaning to today's post.

I'm not sure if you wanted the real Japan, but sometimes you're gonna get it.

PS, headed to Tokyo tomorrow for meetings and SCBWI Tokyo Creative Exchange.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Living the fairy tale aka blog stats

Born on December 9
Red Foxx
Dame Judi Dench
John Malkovich
Tre Cool (German drummer in Green Day)
my nextdoor neighbour :)

This week YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday was 6 words to describe you. I don't do the Road Trip Wednesdays because my Wednesday starts 13 hours before yours, and I've usually written my Wednesday post before I read theirs.

But here's my 6 words anyhow:

So much world, so little time.

Because so much of what drives me is the discovery of new things, places, languages, imaginary people (what? we're writers, aren't we?), etc.

Okay. On to blog stats.

Firstly, if you are not hype to Google Analytics, you need to get with the program. Before Google Analytics, I depended on comments to tell me how many people were reading and what the readers liked. Since I've joined the Analytics crew, I realise that there are 5,6, even 10 times as many readers as commenters.
(You can also get some stats on the STATS tab in your Blogger dashboard.)

Leading referals:

5. Google (organic)** = 8%
4. Twitter = 12% (and to think I didn't want to get on Twitter!)
3. Google (referal)* = 14%
2. Direct = 20%
1. Blogger = 26%

And thank you to follower, KO, who all on her lonesome has managed to generate 1% of my blog references!

*Referal means clicking on a link.
*Organic means it was a random search in a search engine.

Most popular posts:

6. What King of the World? 3 % of page views
5. Stephanie Perkins on Talk Back Thursday 3.5% of page views
4. All Over The World 4.1% of page views
3. Kathleen Ortiz 12% of page views
(This post got 150 views in a single day. It was the most active day my blog has EVER seen. Thank you, Kathleen!)
2. Points of Clarification homepage
(Not an actual post but blogger counts it. )
1. Prince Charming

Actually, lets come back to that.

Top searches
In 3rd place there's a 4-way tie among:

Elise Allen Populazzi, Crime in the 80's, Feegles and Punky Brewster. What a combo!

2. Iwate Swan. (Joanna asked who he is. For the newer followers he was a JET teacher here in my prefecture who vlogged about his life in Japan. He died suddenly in January of Pancreatitis.)

1. Prince Charming. More than half of the people who find me in search engines, find me through a variation of that concept!

So, as you can see from the search terms and page views, my visitors have been driven by non-writing related things: anime, fairy tales, the 80's, etc. I guess it pays to mix it up. I'm sure 99% of those people were disappointed when they didn't find what they expected. But a few have stayed and I'm glad to have them.

Oh, and in case you wonder, what's the strangest search term that's led someone to my blog, that would be 'breast shapes'


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Story Siren Challenge

Born December 8
Mary, Queen of Scots
Teri Hatcher
Sammy Davis Jr
David Carradine
Kim Basinger
Sinead O'Connor

This year I'm participating in The Story Siren's Debut Author Contest.

The objective is to read 12 novels from authors debuting in Young Adult or Middle Grade between January 1, 2011 and December 31 of the same year.

Here's a list of books I intend to read from the US list on the website, in order of release. I think.

Julia Karr XVI
Beth Revis Across the Universe
Lorraine Zago Rosenthal Other Words for Love
Paige Harbison Here Lies Bridget
Any Holder Lipstick Laws
Chris Beam I am J.
Kirsten Hubbard Like Mandarin
Lisa & Laura Roecker Liar Society
Jesse Karp Those That Wake
Myra McEntire Hourglass
Vernica Roth Divergent
Elana Johnson Posession
Carrie Harris Bad Taste in Boys
Karsten Knight Wildefire
Medeia Sharif Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
Elise Allen Populazzi
Victoria Schwab The Near Witch
Anna Staniszewski My un-fairytale life
Michelle Hodkin The Un-becoming of Mara Dyer

I was actually going ot read 13 of these anyhow. lol.

Oh, also, I spent the day sifting through ALL teen books being released in January and February on Amazon. There are only a few categories you can search on, so I had to wade through the non-fiction as well. (Although doesn't include non-fic. Get with it, US Amazon!) Plus Amazon doesn't differentiate between new book and new edition. Shakespeare, Bronte, and Judy Blume are definitely NOT new.

But I know have like 6 pages of books to go check up on. :)

Oh, and in case you wondered, there are a little over 500 new editions being released for teens in January and February. Ah, the tortures I put myself through for love.

PS. There are lots of vampires. And titles like 'something, something and something-something' ( for example: Me, Myself and the Girl in the Mirror. No, that's not an actual title. ) I only read two months worth and I was already sick of the vamps and the comma titles. Editors and agents are superheroes!

(PS. December rocks. Ignore Joanna. :P lol. )

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Two for Tuesday: Ted Authors

Born December 5
Walt Disney
Little Richard
Keri Hilson
Frankie Muniz

Born December 6
apparently noone mega-famous--- even the great December needs to take a break :)

Born December 7
Richard Sears (Founded Sears)
Sara Bareilles

Hey hey!

Today, I'm doing Two for Tuesday again.

Here are two TED lectures.

By amazing authors.

Both of whom are crazy famous.

Both of whom I've never read. :(

The awesomesauce Maggie Stiefvater

La encantadora Isabel Allende

Feeling inspired yet?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Product Description (Amazon): Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she's less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris--until she meets Etienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Etienne has it all . . . including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

My feelings:

I feel like every cliche possible.

Like the story is so beautiful that I should never write another word because I can't compete.

Like any words I use to describe it won't be enough.

Because there's such amazing romantic tension. So many times where you're like 'just kiss!!!' and then other times when you're screaming, 'no, tell him the truth,' or 'Ack, you two are meant for each other. Why are you so blindddddddd!?'

And then there's all these cutesie little things that made me smile: a Canadian flag, the Americans in the bowling alley, what Matt said, Thanksgiving...

And the things that made me cry: The New Year's phonecall, and the concept of home. Oh, the concept of home.

And setting: OMG! Paris! Stephanie Perkins does such a fab job with Paris. I've been to France, but not continental France. Still, the food brought back memories and made my mouth water. And the scenes were so richly painted I felt like I was at Notre-Dame, and the Pantheon.

This setting is exactly how I like them. Intricately interwoven with the story, but not bigger than it. Beautiful.

And Étienne: Best flawed love interest. He's got imperfect teeth and bites his nails and is too short. Finally a YA Love Interest that isn't so perfect that you feel like your boyfriend needs to be rock-hard and sparkly. Or have a bazillion ab muscles.

Also, Stephanie Perkins has the strange and dubious distinction of being the first author to ever make me cry in the acknowledgements.

To her husband, Jarrod: "Thank you for being you, because you are my favorite."

If that's not a person meant to write teen romance, I don't know who is.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Iwate Swan 16 and 17

As my brain is still fried from conferences/nano/work, but I don't want to not post, I ggive you Iwate Swan.

First, today's birthdays:
Jean-Luc Godard (French Filmmaker)
Ozzy Osbourne
Brendan Fraser

And December 4:
Marisa Tomei
Tyra Banks

Giant icecream!

French Kissing and region coding

Apologies to my followees and commenters for the last week. Between nanowrimo, work and sheer exhaustion, I've fallen behind on reading your blogs. I'm only up to Monday's blogs right now. Gomen ne. (Japanese for sorry. It's in the original Sailor Moon theme song. :) )

Born today:
Monica Seles
Britney Spears
Charles Ringling
Gianni Versace
Lucy Liu
Nelly Furtado

Stephanie Perkin's ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS comes out today. Like now! Yay! I'm so psyched! Thanks again for hanging out with us last month, Steph.

It got me started thinking about region coding and other regional restrictions (ANNA is not available on Kindle in the US).

Let me just say, I HATE REGION CODING!!!

Let's think DVD's. Supposedly, the reason for region coding is to protect the movie studio. For example, Twilight was released in November in the US. It was released in April in Japan. So theoretically, the DVD might have been out in the US before the theatrical release here. And a region code is supposed to prevent Person A in America from sending a copy to Person B in Japan, or anywhere in the rest of the world.

This argument might make sense if DVD's didn't take a million years to come out.

And if the release dates for pretty much all of Europe and the English speaking Americas weren't generally within a month of one another.

And if 90% of the people in Japan who care about American movies weren't American ex-pats anyhow.

And if non-English speakin countries didn't need their versions to be subtitled.

I am super anti-piracy. I mean I am an artist. I haven't always wanted to be an artist; as a kid I wanted to be a scientist. (I know, right? Me, a scientist? How badly would that end? I probably would find the cure to cancer, and not be able to make it again because I winged it, and didn't record a thing.) But even so, my mother was a singer, and went on to manage a calypso tent (where artists came together to sing their calypsoes once a year) so I've always been surrounded by artists. And piracy is probably the issue I grew up feeling strongest about.

I wouldn't even touch pirated material. When all my friends had home-made mixed-tapes and DVD's, I was buying the real thing.

But, living in Japan, I find myself having to wait half a year for a release. Or, there not being a release at all. If there was a way to buy it here, I would. But as there's not, that movie company just lost out on my $9.99.

Region coding, like other restrictive procedures, only gets in the way of legit people. Because the people who never intended to go to the theatrical release aren't going to go anyway. They'll either find a bootleg online, or get a universal DVD player or a computer program to watch any region.

(PS, I will never understand why Japan is in one region, South Korea is in another, and China is in a third. It's not like they're next to one another or anything.)

Region coding has been around since the VHS/PAL days. You'd think they would have nixed it by now. Yet they incorporate it in every new incarnation of entertainment.

Like the Kindle.

Some Kindle editions are released only in the US. Some in the US and Caribbean regions. Some not in the US, but pretty much every where else.

It's a nuisance. Especially in a time where you have so many online companies, which will mail me the book anyway.

I understand the legal implications. But why is it we can manage 'free trade' and all sorts of other universal things, and not get away from region codes?

Once upon a time, people were born in a country and died in that country. Or immigrated once, at most.

But look at me. I've lived in 3 countries. And I'm 28. I'm not done yet.

Once upon a time I used to think that was abnormal. But there are 5,000 on my program in a similar position. And thousands others on other programs or in different jobs. In Japan alone.

Somebody needs to figure this out and get it together. Because movie companies, book companies/writers, etc may think that they're making money with these restrictions. But there are lots of cases where they lose. And that just might be happening more often than not.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December RULEZ! (And Resolutions)

It's here! The month that brings you Christmas, me and Brad Pitt!

Born Today:
Richard Pryor
Woody Allen
Marie Tussaud (Madame Tussaud)
Pablo Escobar
Aiko, Princess Toshi

The Rejectionist invited her minions to post on their resolutions for the upcoming year. I don't normally do resolutions- you know me and commitment- but I is has plans for next year. (Please note: The Receptionist expects a dry-run of resoulutions in December. Sorry, but that's not happening. I'm exhausted from nano, will be travelling, will be organising a school reunion, etc. Maybe that's perfect though, because I'm always too busy. lol.)

So anyhow, here's what to expect in the new year.

1. Save 1万円 per month.

That's 10,000 yen, and right now is worth about $110 US. Not much, you say. Let's consider how much I saved last month. Zero. And the month before that. Zero. And the one before. Zero. Detect a pattern?

2. Compile MFA application.

I may not even end up doing an MFA, but if I do, I should get to cracking on the application. Competition is tight and MFA's require a writing sample. I don't want them to reject me based on something I wrote the night before deadline, when I might have gotten in.

3. Submit short stories.

I want to try my hand at short stories. And publishing credits couldn't hurt.

4. Advance my WIP every month.

Coming up with a writing goal was difficult. I can't write every day. Not for lack of time. I just can't do anything every day. I also didn't want to say 'do something for my craft every week,' because reading helps my craft. And if I used that to fulfill my writing quals, then I'd never need to write.

So, every month, I will be writing, re-reading, editing, etc. something. And a month might sound like a long time, but I know it's what I can work with, because straight off the bat I know there are weeks I won't be able to do anything for my writing. Like the last week of July, the first week of August and the last two of October.

5. Take a novel through the full pre-query process.

When you make goals, you should make them: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound. Originally my goal was to have a publishable-quality novel. But how do you measure that? So my new goal is to move from WIP to the best possible book.

I've never done anything more than a first edit. I've never given an entire book over to a beta reader. (Super-awesome crit-partner Elbie and I were doing weekly exchanges.) So I'll be taking a WIP- maybe this nano's, maybe nano 2008 (nano 2009 should be buried deep. Very, very, very deep.)- and revising, and revising, and beta-ing and lather, rinse, repeat.

6. Read one book a week.

But Claire, you already a gazillion books. Yes. Too many. I don't do anything else. This year, I'm going to try to get myself down to 52. Well, at least between 52 and 100. :)

7. Vary my reading

Once a month I will read one book which is not YA/Hilarious women's fiction/paranormal/written in English. Theoretically, this is supposed to get me into reading adult fiction. What will probably actually happen is that I will read 12 French/Spanish/Italian/Japanese books. Oh well, at least that counts as studying :)

(I got LA DIVINA COMMEDIA by Dante for Kindle last night. So psyched! Reading it right after ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.)

8. Review every book I read.

This may be the hardest of my resolutions to keep, but I want to spread the love. So I will be starring/reviewing/recommending every single book I read EITHER on Goodreads, Amazon, or my book review blog. Yes, I have a book review blog. It's just been hidden for like a year.

9. Give away a book every week.

I could not forget you guys. Because you ROCK! Stop by every Thursday in 2011 for a giveaway.

I know that sounds kind of crazy, but I gave away about 50 books this year. In about 5 giveaways, and I only started in June. Once a week will be toning it down.

But because contests are actually energy-sucking lifeforms (I can't wait til I can be rich- or important- or famous enough to have an assistant who takes care of all the mundania), there's a minimum entry of 5. If less than 5 people enter, the prize won't be drawn and will go forward to the next week. If it happens 3 weeks in a row, the contests will be discontinued. I don't care if the same 5 people enter all year and win 10 books a piece. So long as there's 5.

How's about you guys? Do you do resolutions? Do you have any for k11?

Independence and Nano

God Bless Bim on Independence Day!

Hey guys. Today, we're going to switch it up and do Two for Tuesday. Because there are 2 big things on my calendar, every year on November 30th.

It's the Independence Day of my beautiful country, Barbados, nicknamed Bim, or Little England.

Who would imagine 166 square miles would go that far? Yes, 166 suqare miles. Probably smaller than your town.

Still, we've got an incredible list of accomplishments for an itty-bitty rock with no natural resources. (Okay, we have 2 ounces of oil. But just 2 ounces.)

We grafted the grapefruit. Say thank you.

We invented rum. Alcoholics the world over praise our existence.

We've produced a slew of international singers: Jaicko (Oh yeah), Livvi Franc (I'm That B*tch), Shontelle (The Americans among us might know her song, Battle Cry, which features clips of Obama speeches) and of course, Rihanna.
(Remember how I said it was small? I went to school with Shontelle and my brother went to school with Rihanna. Yeah, that kind of small.)

We're the '5th most literate' country in the world. (Although it's hard to judge because they automatically assign a rate of 99.0 to some countries which have good rates for a long time.)

We are a developed country, according to the World Bank. Even though there are lots of countries with outrank us for size, we are the most developed island in the Caribbean region.

Oh, and we're the 2009 World Champions of Segway Polo. (I wouldn't know it was a sport if we didn't win it.)

Recently the BBC did a feature on the only sport invented in Barbados, road tennis. It was hilarious. A tourist was learning how to play, and the teacher kept saying gems like:

"You're embarassing me as a teacher."
And when she asks advice, "Hit de ball!"

Watch the clip, hear the accent and see the Bajan charm, here. :)

I'll leave the topic before I really get into swing. Barbadians (Bajans) are rumoured to be arrogant by the rest of the Caribbean. But it's not really arrogance, it's just that BARBADOS ROCKS!

Of course, that's not the only fab on November 30th.

It's the last day of Nano, too.

I was way, way behind on Nano. I told myself on Thursday that I'd be good if I could squeeze out 5,000 words, because I know Fridays are pretty near impossible to do anything but exist on, and I was scheduled to travel on the weekend. I actually wrote about 2,000 words on Thursday, and maybe 1,000 all weekend.

Leaving me with almost 14,000 words to write on Monday and Tuesday.

Still doable.

If I wrote a single word on Monday. Which I didn't.

And I gave up. Around Week 3 of Nano you hear things like, 'it's great that you got this far,' and 'that's 20,000 words you didn't have before.' I believe it and agree.

But not for me. Not winning = fail.

Yet, when I was staring down the double barrel of the failure yesterday morning, and realising that Nano had slipped beyond my grasp, it occured to me that sometimes you fail, in order to win. Have you ever given up something now to have something better later? It's just like that. And I had a whole post planned.

And then I came to work. And it was test day. 8 hours of sitting at my desk, while the kids do tests in their classrooms. And I hadn't brought a book. And all the other teachers were using their internet cables. (I don't have dedicated internet at this school. I have to highjack one.)

8 hours of not being required to do anything but sit at my desk, with nothing but a computer with no internet.

If that's not a hint that I should be writing, I don't know what is.

So I wrote.

I knocked off a little over 8,000 words.

Then I went home, exhausted. Still contemplating giving up. And I found out I was a Critterpalooza winner. And you can't win a prize on a writers' site and then not write. So I knocked off 2.5 K. And then I went by my neighbour's house and watched an episode of Beverley Hillbillies and had a glass of red.

Came back at 10. 2 hours. 3,000 words.

I did it. Even though my story ran out at 48,988 words- the last 1000 words aren't pretty.

I finished. With 8 minutes to spare. 13,800 words in one day. Frankly, I'm surprised I'm capable of coherent thought. Or maybe I'm not. :)

Congratulations to all the other Wrimos out there.

And thank you to everyone here for believing in me. You are so fabulicious. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Unless you have athritis. Then you can pat the front. Or something.