Friday, May 28, 2010

Characters to crush on and ARCs!

There are two ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) up for grabs: Of all the stupid things and You Wish. Check them out.

Nathan Bransford posted last week on what literary characters you have a crush on (I'm almost caught up on the blogosphere! YAY!) and I know I've had tons of literary crushes but it took a minute to remember. My long term memory sucks.

Here's my list (not inclusive):
Sirius Black
Aragorn
Eragon
Jacob Black (Twilighter and proud! Totally not a Twihard though. That's just ridiculous:)
Naruto (If we count manga as literary and I do :)
Legolas (Both in the book and in all his Orlando Bloom splendour)



That list makes it sound like I only read/watch Fantasy or only like guys in Fantasy. While this is not true (I think) I can't recall any others right now.

Anyhow, that is totally not the point of this post.

It got me to thinking. For me characters are the most important thing. I mean Plot Matters. For sure. But I like more character-driven genre: slice of life, coming of age, humour, wit... except for the fantast binge. Even the anime I watch every week. I watch Naruto because I love Naruto (the character) and I watch One Piece because I love Luffy. Characters are what keep me involved in a story.

What makes a good character? Well, I could get all technical- but that's not really my thing. The best measure of a good character is that audience sees him or her outside of the pages (or the screen). Whether that means that they want to b%*#h-slap them, hug them, hang out with them or plant a big wet one on their marble lips. (lol)

Howz about you guys? Plot or character?

And, what characters do you crush on?

And for the writers among us, are your characters crushworthy?

JP to the rescue!

I'm just back from the Post Office, collecting a prize from Natalie Whipple and I thought I would post about it.


Hello lovies!

Here I am with the book I won, which I am so psyched to read! I'm kinda sorry I have to work tomorrow -Saturday- and won't be able to start til Sunday. (I don't want to start tonight, because then I'll spend all of Sports Day thinking about how I should be reading my book instead of watching my kids compete in ridiculous events.

Anyhoozy, the subject of today's post is Japan Post. I know, I know. The Post Office? How boring could one post be? Let me tell you, if you think the Post Office is not the awesomest thing since sliced bread, then you've clearly never lived in Japan.

First off, Japan Post is a total misnomer. JP is also an insurance company. AND a bank. And as if that's not enough, it's pretty much the only national bank there is. Japanese people don't do a whole lot of travel, so there isn't as much need for an ATM card for Iwate to work in Tokyo as there is for a North Carolina ATM card to work in New York, for example. Japan Post is the only bank you can access from whereever in Japan. If you were to visit Japan, there'd be a good chance that your credit and debit cards would only work in JP machines.

On top of that, JP is the most convenient Postal service in the world! The major cities (including my capital, which doesn't count as a major city in anyone else's estimation) have 24 hour post offices. 24 hours! And the mailman delivers every day. If gotten mail at 8 pm in the rain, and I've had mail before I woke up on Sunday mornings. If you mail a letter, it will get to any destination in Japan in 2 days or less.

Seriously, JP is the best thing EVER!!!

As usual, here's the next instalment of Iwate Swan. This time Rodger takes us grocery shopping in Hanamaki, his city- which he often referred to as a rural town, but for Japan it is a medium sized city.



Tomorrow is Sports Day at my tiny elementary. Hopefully, I'll have some pics of crazy stuff to post for you soon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm back!

Hey guys! I'm back from Tokyo. The meetings went surprisingly well, for meetings in Japanese with 3 governmental ministries and 1 governmental division. They were not at all boring, and somehow listening to days of Japanese did not give me a headache. Maybe I'm actually getting good at this!

Today's post is neither here nor there, in keeping with the state of my brain today :)

-- I've taken the day off work (I didn't actually have any classes today because that school has all-day sports practice, and I have a full slate tomorrow at another school. ugh :( ). By some strange twist of evil fate, half the reason I took today off is to finish all the work I didn't do because I was working on Saturday and Sunday. What a tangled web we weave when we have 3 employers. My official jobn is to teach English in 4 schools, and that's the only job that pays yet. But representing the JET participants (people on my program) in the 4 Northernmost prefectures is definitely a job. And writing (seriously), as mush as I love it, is also a job.

-- I've been reading pretty widely lately. Sorta. lol. I'm trying to figure out where I want my niche to be. I mean, I can write a few different genre in a few different voices right now. I know I won't end up in historical, and I probably won't end up in fantasy (no patience for that amount of detail). But I'm flipflopping about how heavy I want my style and my topics to be. You guys probably know by now, I can be pretty heavy sometimes. But on occasion I can be light and frivolous. (This is kinda the reverse of the real me, I'm often frivolous and people say I'm "the happiest person they know" but I'm not very serious unless I need to be.)

Don't get me wrong, I have no intentions of copying anyone else's style- why would I want to be a second rate J.K. Rowling, when I can be a first rate Claire Dawn?- but I've been exploring to see what feels I like. More backstory or less? More flashbacks or less? More description or less? etc, etc.

-- We're having a cold snap. We've been around 5 Celcius for a few days (that's 40's Farenheit), but we're supposed to get back up to around 20 (70) in a few days. Iwate winter just won't give up.

-- I've been looking a little more at colleges again. This time my eye's on Queen's College, CUNY. Reasonable tuition and a program I swear was made with me in mind. MFA Creative Writing and Literary Translation, with an option for a certificate in ESL (teaching English as a Second Language). If you could marry a college program...

-- The recent meeting with all the gov't officials remind how much I love all that stuff too. I'm an oxymoron of a creature. I hate politics and accounts, but I love policy meetings and business. Go figure.

Anyhoo's that's enough randomness for today. I'm off to catch up on the blogosphere and catch up on the work I'm supposed to be doing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

J-Poppin!

Just a quick post today. (I'm kinda tired and have to get up early to go to Tokyo tomorrow. But I'm psyched because I'm going by shink! -shinkansen aka bullet train- I love the shink!)

J-Pop is kind of the Japanese equivalent of Pop. Or at least you'd think so. But then you realise that there are really only two genres of music in Japan. Traditional (like enka- which sounds like a sheep bleating to death slowly) and J-Pop. The fact that there are two genres does not mean that there are only two styles of music in Japan. It just means that everything which is not traditional (or hip hop/reggae) is called J-Pop. So you end up with a range which sounds like anywhere from Elton John to N' Sync to Tim McGraw. It's all J-pop.

Nonetheless, I happen to actually love J-pop.

Recently, there was a closing on one of my favourite anime. It was the most annoying thing. The chorus starts with screaming the same word 5 times! ANNOYING!

And then it got stuck in my head. Don't you just hate it when that happens? So now I love it. Just in case you wonder what it is: Jitensha (Bicycle) by Ore Ska Band. That's a super cool band name too. There are different ways to say "I" in Japanese. Watakushi is super formal. Watashi is general/feminine. Boku is masculine. Washi is like from samurai times (I think) and Ore (oh-ray) is the masculine gangsta "I". (In my region, however, everyone says ore, including my 6 year old female students. I guess they're just bada$$ up in the North.) So being named "ore" anything is super cool. And it's even cooler for an all GIRL band!

Here's the song and a translation of the chorus (0:44).

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle,
I'm coming, coming, coming, coming, coming,
Right now, right now, right now, right now, right now,
Bicycle, bicycle, I'm coming
I'm going to meet that person!



And here's the next instalment of Iwate Swan.



I'm in meetings in Tokyo til Tuesday. No guarantee about internet. C u guys when I can :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Against the Rules- Terry Pratchett edition

First up, Tahereh is having a contest that will implode your brains.

Also, I've written reviews on Linda Villarosa's Passing for Black and Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith. I'm kinda new to the review game, but I hope to get better at it with time.

Okay, today's Write Away Wednesday. I've been on about the rules a lot lately. Apologies. It's just that the rules seem to come up every other day (hour, minute, second) in writers' forums. Plus I've never been one to follow the rules- at least not all of them. So I'm really interested in when rules apply and when they don't.



I've got two examples of succesful rule-breaking from Terry Pratchett's WINTERSMITH. He's written a 37 (and counting) book series. If that's not successful, I don't know what is.

Broken Rule #1- Never start your story with the weather.

Reason: Weather descriptions aren't particularly interesting. You will lose your reader before you hook them.

Pratchett:

Chapter 1
The Big Snow

When the storm came, it hit the hills like a hammer. No sky should hold as much snow as this, and because no sky could, it fell; fell in a wall of white.

There was a small hill of snow where there had been, a few hours ago, a little cluster of thorn trees on an ancient mound. This time last year, there had been a few early primroses; now there was just snow.

Why it works: The book is specifically about winter. Winter is actually a character and not something that happens in the background. And so it becomes important that we know (at the beginning and throughout the novel) what the weather's like.

Broken Rule #2- Don't write dialect.

Reason: It's difficult to read, and readers often have to read it out loud to understand the meaning.

Pratchett:

"Ach, crivens!" it grumbled. "Will ye no' look at this? 'Tis the work o' the wintersmith! Noo there's a scunner that willnae tak' "no" fra' an answer!"

Why it works: Only the Feegles in the novel speak this way. The humans, gods and elementals all speak regular English. The Feegles are a crazy race of little blue people, and their dialect reflects that they're different. Admittedly, it takes a while to get used to - and to remember the terms in the small glossary- but once you get into it, it makes the Feegles even more hilarious. And every time you see "Crivens!" you know it's a Feegle speaking.

Don't write dialect if everyone is going to be using it. When you paint your setting - and maybe sprinkle in a little dialect- people will come to understand that the characters are using dialect, but it's been transcribed into standard English for the reader's comfort. Much like you'd watch a Japanese movie, set in Japan, dubbed in English. No one expects that the characters are speaking English, but watching Japanese would be useless. Note however that when one Japanese character appears in the midst of an English movie, he often speaks Japanese and is subtitled. (Like the movie "Rush Hour" with the Chinese cast members.)

For more info on how to use dialect, check out this useful link.

Broken Rule #3- Don't start your story with a dream.

Reason: Readers feel betrayed- they're just starting to know a character and a situation, only to discover it's not real.

Pratchett:

All of this hasn't happened yet. It might not happen at all. The future is always a bit wobbly. Any little thing, like the fall of a snowflake or the dropping of the wrong kind of spoon, can send it spinning off along a new path. Or perhaps not.

Why it works: This is a dream that Jeannie, one of the Feegles, has. However, it's not just a dream, but a vision. Of something that may just happen. It helps us understand before we even meet the wintersmith what is at stake if Tiffany doesn't defeat him.

Starting a story with a scene or event from later on (chronologically) is a fairly popular device. Take To Kill a Mockingbird. And Th1rteen R3asons Why. And Twilight. (Silently freaked that TKAM and Twilight have something in common. Eek!) There is something to be said for knowing the outcome and cheering that somehow that won't come to pass, even though you know it must.

In WINTERSMITH however, Pratchett offers us the possibility that what we see won't happen. Having given us the sneak peek of what's at stake, we probably cheer a little harder for the good guys.

So in conclusion:

DON'T open with the weather.
Unless the book's about the weather.

DON'T write dialect.
Unless the dialect is important to differentiating the characters.

DON'T open with a dream.
Unless it's a vision.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Terry Pratchett broke all these rules in the first chapter. Two of the three on the first page. Proof that rules aren't for people who know how to really play the game!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shower every day- Momm

Time for Monday on my mind. It's 2.30 pm on Tuesday here, which makes it 1.30 am in NYC, but at least it's still Monday in California, so this is what's on my mind. :)

I swear my brain makes the wierdest connections.

Today's inspiration comes from Terry Pratchett's WINTERSMITH:


A feegle

"Feegles on the Chalk tend to rely on the fact that you can only get so much dirt on you before it starts to fall off of it's own accord."

How I wish I could have told my mother that as a kid. I had a chlorine (we theorise that it's chlorine, but that doesn't really make sense because it's not as bad in pools as in the shower) allergy. It's kinda still around, but it doesn't flare up anywhere near as bad these days.

But this quote also made me think of something else. If you leave things alone, they'll eventually fall into place. Take babies for example. It's quite common for parents (and other adults around babies) to spend their time enunciating their words at the children, and showing them how to crawl and walk before they learn how to do it on their own. Maybe that helps them to learn faster, but if no one paid any attention to whether they were walking or crawling or talking, babies would still eventually imitate the adults anyway. We know this because they imitate the things we try to hide from them - like cuss words :)

So why help them if they're going to figure it out anyway?

Because it's in our nature. Because we like things in the superlative- the fastest ways and the best and most efficient. These days, good enough isn't good enough.

So why do we settle when it comes to our own accomplishments? Why do we aim to pass tests and not ace them? Why do we produce a bare minimum at work? Why don't we reach above and beyond in our daily lives?

And for the writers among us, why don't we submit our best work? Why are we happy to send in first or second drafts that are just ok? Why don't we study the craft, and polish our work until it's so sparkly that agents and editors are blinded?

Are you going to wait for the dirt to drop off on it's own? Or would you rather shower every day?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cool Reads for a Hot Summer!

I've finally finished my list of summer reads. It proved more difficult than expected.

More things I learned while digging through the pile:

-Many "new" releases have been released in another format (but I didn't include them)
-There's a heck of a lot of YA parnormal/fantasy
-A ridiculously large portion of those are vampire romances- I can only imagine how many more didn't make it
-Agents and editors are superheros- 3 days of swimming through that pile and I've had enough
-I totally fell in love with the Penguin Group's Speak Imprint. If a girl could marry an imprint... That would make one heck of an interesting letter to the editor!
-YA is really not a genre, it's an audience. All the other genre still exist within YA, but it's sometimes hard to tell if a book is fantasy or contemporary etc., based purely on the back cover blurb.

Okay, so the list. Now, I haven't read any of these books. Nor do I know many of the authors. They've been judged purely by their premises. I've enclosed a few notes in brackets, and if the book is part of a series, you'll find that info in square brackets. Happy reading.

June

The Reinvention of Moxie Roosevelt
- Elizabeth Cody Kimmel (Contemporary, a girl tries being different characters at a boarding school)

Rush- Jonathan Friesen (Contemporary, male 18 year old MC)

Sea- Heidi R Kling (debut, contemporary, romance, Indonesia)

So Many Boys [Naughty List]- Suzanne Young

Summer of Skinny Dipping- Amanda Howells (In the style of "I know what you did last summer")

Star Shack- Lila Castle (contemporary, horoscope, romance)

Girl, 16: Five-Star Fiasco- Sue Limb (romance, humour)

Battle of the Sun - Jeanette Winterson (Urban Fantcasy, London, Male MC)

Magical Mischief- Anna Dale (fantasy, humour, set in a bookstore)

Forgive My Fins- Tera Lynn Childs (fantasy, mermaid, romance)

Freak Magnet- Andrew Auseon (Contemporary, romance, humour)

Bruiser- Neal Shusterman (Contemporary, at least one male MC)

Only the Good Spy Young [Gallagher Girls]- Ally Carter (suspense, thriller)

Queen of Secrets - Jenny Meyerhoff (romance, cheerleader MC)

Things I know about love- Kate le Vann (romance, NYC, British)

Tweet heart-Elizabeth Rudnick (romance, humour, told in tweets, emails and blogs)

The Deathday Letter- (contemporary, last day alive)

Reality Check- Jen Calonita (reality tv, tagline: Friends don't let friends so reality shows)

Deception [Haunting Emma]- Lee Nichols (paranormal)

The Mosts- Melissa Senate (popularity)

My Ultimate Sister Diasaster- Jane Mendle (contemporary, sibling rivalry)

Nocturne- L.D. Harkrader (Romance, Paranormal, vampire, bookstore)

Poser- Sue Wyshynski (surfing, popularity)

Queen's Daughter- Susan Conventry (historical)

The Secret to Lying- Todd Mitchell (Male MC, adrenaline rush, dreams)

Sisters Red- Jackson Pearce (fantasy, family, love)

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner- Stephenie Meyer

Carter's Big Break- Brent Crawford (Hollywood)

June [Conspiracy 365]- Gabrielle Lord (Male MC, Boy finds out someone killed his father and he has a year to live- one of these books is released every month.)

July

Blindsided-Priscilla Cummings (MC is told she will lose her sight)

The Grimm Legacy- Polly Shulman (A library of fairy tale things from Brothers Grimm Legends, contents start to disappear)

Paisley Hanover Kisses and Tells [Paisley Hanover]- Cameron Tuttle (contemporary, popularity, reputation)

Watch Me- Lauren Barnholdt (reality tv, romance)

Come Fall- A.C.E. Bauer (based on A Midsummer's Night Dream)

My Life As A Book- Janet Tashijan (Male MC, slow learning)

August

Divided Souls [Darke Academy]- Gabriella Poole (suspense, murder, Istanbul)

Plus- Veronica Chambers (romance, weight, contemporary)

Thresholds- Nina Kiriki Hoffman (magic, paranormal)

You wish- Mandy Hubbard (A girl wishes for all her birthday wishes ever to come true, and it happens)

The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June- Robin Benway (paranormal, magical sisters)

The Wonder of Charlie Anne- Kimberly Fusco (historical, Depression era)

The Madman of Venice- Sophie Masson (based on The Merchant of Venice, historical, mystery)

Mockingjay [Hunger Games]- Suzanne Collins

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz- Laura Tofflier (told in emails and one act plays, contemporary, NYC)

No and me- Delphine de Vigan (translated, Paris, homelessness)

Juggler in the Wind [The Wand Bearer, Book 1]- Wim Coleman and Patt Perrin (Male MC, fantasy)

The Charlatan's Boy- Jonathon Rogers (hoax, paranormal)

Butterfly- Sonya Hartnett (coming of age)

I was also happy to see that they're releasing the Famous Five Series (I don't know how big they were in America, but I think they were a rite of passage for us British system babies) and some of the Ramona the Pest books, since a movie's coming up!

Happy Summer Reading!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Watching paint dry...

Today should be a Time Travel Tuesday, but I am too bored to surf youtube. Did you know that was even possible? Last week Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were holidays. Thursday I was in the office with nothing to do. Friday, I taught 3 elementary school classes. Monday, back at the office with nothing to do. Tuesday, my JHS kids were all practicing for this weekend's sports festival, and the one class I was actually supposed to teach was sequestered by the dentist. Today (it's already Wednesday here), I actually taught a class. Yay! Tomorrow is probably 1 class at my small elementary and Friday is 3 at big elementary.

So my class total for the last two weeks? 8! Oops I forgot kindergarten. 9. 6 hours of the 35 in my workweek. Needless to say, I am bored to tears. You think being employed to do nothing would be fun. Until you actually are!

Since I had nothing to do yesterday (but re-learn the town dance and watch centipede races- where the kids tie themselves together) I started looking for a list of upcoming YA novels to post for my friends on inkwell. But I couldn't find one. :( I can't even find a list of upcoming novels. If you search upcoming movies, a gasquillion sites will pop up telling you whats coming up from now til December 2013. So I decided to use the almost 14 hours at my disposal over the two days and compile such a list.

It's a summer reads list, so it's only releases for June, July and August. And I'm not including everything I find, just because it would be too long. . I only checked Harper, Penguin, Random House, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, Bloomsbury and Amazon. So if a book isn't on any of those lists, it had no chance to make mine.

Here are a few things I discovered as I was poking around.

-Some publishers websites leave a lot to be desired. I couldn't figure out how to search upcoming titles on some.
-Hachette didn't list too far into the future, nor did Bloomsbury.
-Publishers didn't provide synopses for some books. On some of those occasions, synopses existed on Amazon. There is no reason in the world a middle man should be better than the source. No reason at all.
-Some publishers didn`t differentiate in a searchable way, between YA and children`s and some didn't differentiate at all.

The lesson I learned from all of that?

Self promotion!!!

There was one author, who's cover looked interesting on Amazon, but the book didn't have a write-up. There was a write-up for the first book in the series, however. Same thing on her publisher's page. I even tried her blog. And while the info might be there somewhere, I couldn't find it. You can't sell a book that you can't look inside, with no info other than the title and the cover. Well maybe you can. But you can't sell it to me!

Authors, expect your publishers to do what they promise, but also have a web presence of your own, and links to synopses and other relevant pages in the sidebar or on the top page.

On top of that, you might want to do some research on the publishers, as your agent submits. See what they do for books, and what goes on on their websites. I'm not telling you to turn down your only publishing offer. But seeing what I've seen these last two days, the website would play a role in my choice if I had more than one bid.

Something else did come of these hours of searching.

The lack of one place to find upcoming YA (Amazon does a half decent job of it, but I can't help thinking how fantastic it would be to have an extensive independent source) has me kinda tempted to start a blog or website for the cause. Maybe when I'm done with this list, and have got the million other things on my plate in order, I'll think about doing it for real.

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll present my list.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coming out!

No, I'm not a lesbian. (Don't believe in it, but that's my decision for me, and everybody's gotta make their own decisions for themselves.)

Today's post is about secrets.

The weird thing is that I generally don't keep secrets. Things in my past which could be considered blackmail material are all out there in the open. On facebook, even. And yes, I know what they say about putting too much of yourself on facebook, and all, but that's me. Quite frankly, a job that can't handle the things I've done or who I am, is not a job for me. Sounds like a bunch of BS, but it's true. I am who I am, and I don't do well pretending not to be.

So I generally don't keep secrets. And the secrets I do keep, make no sense as secrets.

I'm overweight. Well, if you want the down and dirty truth, I'm obese. I don't look it. My skin is firm and I've got a crap ton of muscle in my body. But, I'm still way heavier than I should be. Obviously, I can't keep my body a secret. It's not like I can leave it at home, and go about my daily life without it.

But for the last few years, I've been working out off and on - trying to do something about it. I'm a lot less concerned with looks than most girls - or most boys for that matter - so that's not my main motivation. I'd just like not to be defined by my size. Not to have to only shop in specific stores. To be able to play a game of soccer in my spare time. (This might also require a little more coordination, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. ) Not to be out of breath from running up two flights of stairs.

So, every once in a while, I decide I'm going ot get my butt in gear, and I start working out. ( I never diet. I don't believe in ridiculous diets. All meat or all carbs, etc, I don't think that's good for you. On top of that, I eat moderately healthy. I don't overeat. I don't like cheesecake or chocolate cake, and I'm not big on ice cream and a lot of the other things I hear people freaking out about. I have a healthy relationship with food, and I not trying to ruin that by making food my enemy.) So my entire weight loss strategy is to work out.

And somehow, that is a secret. When I was at home, none of my friends knew I was working out, until it was clearly visible. Here, I workout in my back room, to muted exercise vids, so my neighbours won't hear. Recently, however, they came over right after a workout. I was sweaty and wearing a net shirt and shorts. My next-door neighbour asked if I'd been playing soccer. I told him I was working out.

And so the cat was out of the bag. But, later that same evening I realised how easier it is that way. I mean, how hard would it be to feed your cat or change the litterbox, if it lived in a bag? Before I could only work out at times I was sure the neighbours wouldn't hear me or disturb me. Now I won't feel funny every time exercise comes up. Have you ever noticed when you're trying not to talk about something, it crosses your path a million times a day?

And the best part of not having a secret? There is no fear that someone will find out. Whether something is good or bad, making it a secret makes it bigger and worse than it is. Who knows? The very same people you were hiding from might actually be really supportive.

That's what's on my mind this Monday. Or at least, what's in my closet. What skeletons are in yours?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Speak of the devil: real fires

No not my house. Just in case you worried.

Last week I posted about a fire drill. This week there was an actual fire in my town. But before I get to that, a little bit about firemen. Most of the firemen in my town are volunteer firemen. I assume that the ones at the main station on the outskirts of town are professional firemen, but I don't know.

We have 5 fire stations in Central Ichinohe. The big one at the Southern edge of town has 4 fire engines and an ambulance. There are 4 volunteer stations, each with an engine apiece. From the furthest North to the furthest South of these is about 20 minutes. WALKING. I wonder how anything can possibly burn here. But then the houses are made of wood and paper. They could probably burn faster than you could dial 119 (fire number here). Case in point, there's a burnt out building directly across from a fire station - but then that happens at home too.

Anyhow, last week my neighbour's parents were here, and we were on our way to the store when we ran into a guy who works in our Board of Education. He was coming out of a fire station. Turns out he's a volunteer fireman. My neighbour really wants to be a volunteer fireman. Mostly because the Firemen get to wear happi (shown below) and because they only seem to ever take part in school events and parades, and have drinking parties. The firemen at the station we passed that evening, as if to prove my point, were having a barbecue. They even invited us in, but we already had plans.


Happi- FRONT


BACK

These pics were taken at Karumai Festival 2008. Karumai is one town North and East of my town. It's about 80 square miles and 11,000 people.


Firemen march in the Summer Festival


And firewomen


And fire scouts


And fire motorcycles


And 23 !!! 23 fire trucks


Making their way down to the river (Can anybody tell me why a town of 11,000 needs 23 fire trucks?)


Displaying the ability to shoot coloured water


Japanese Fire Departments brought to you by Skittles. Taste the rainbow.

Another thing the firemen do here is drive around town at night, with the bells on. Not sirens. BELLS. All night long. Ding ding. Ding ding. Ding ding. You learn to tune it out. Ding ding. I had totally forgotten about it. Ding ding. Until my neighbour's mom mentioned it. Ding ding. So if they drive around with the bells on, how do we know when there's an actual fire?

Air. Raid. Siren.

I am so not kidding. On Tuesday there was an actual fire and off goes this caterwauling playing on speakers at the town hall (we live 10 mins walk away) and repeaters through town. It's the scariest thing. When you hear it, you want to dig a hole and hide. They announce the details on the town PA system afterwards. But the town PA system is about as understable as airport announcements. Even for people who are native Japanese speakers. I went outside and my neighbours were all out there listening to the announcement and the only detail they could gather was "fire". Thanks, I got that on my own.

Even though I'd already heard this air raid siren, it still freaked me for a second before I remembered what it was. Oh, and the first time I heard it? The day after North Korea announced that debris from their "communications satellite launch" could possibly fall on our prefecture. Imagine. North Korea possibly missile testing. You're living due East of North Korea. And then you hear an air raid siren. Yups. Thought it was the end of the world!

This week, Iwate Swan visits Sendai and goes to an Oktoberfest! It's one prefecture South of here, and I affectionately refer to it as the big city of the North. Notice the squatty-potty in the toilet? lol.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jack Sparrow's Writing Rules

Today is the first Thursday in a while I've had to myself. The interviews were fantastic, but I kinda missed Thursdays. *HUGZ*

Anyhoo, on to more pressing business. Tricia at Talespinning is hosting a contest. Stop by and enter.

Last week, Lydia Sharp asked How Firm is Your Handshake. She spoke about first impressions and things she didn't like to see right at the beginning of a novel. But she also gave a few instances where these things worked.

Let's here what Jack and friends have to say about the rules.



KEEP TO THE CODE
Jack Sparrow: I thought you were supposed to keep to the code.
Mr. Gibbs: We figured they were more actual guidelines.

I remember watching an NBA documentary, back in the days when I never used to miss a match, about the big name players and their signature illegal moves. Loved that Alley-oop? Bet you didn't realise he travelled. How about that beautiful fake? Totally didn't notice that he doubled when he did it, did you? Apologies to the non-bball fanatics among us; permit me to explain. These big name players all had these really pretty moves. People came to games to see them. That's what sold the $2000 front row tickets, these patented moves. But many of the patented moves had an illegal component in them.

What's a ref to do? Is he going to call them on it? And reduce them to actually playing by the rules? (Basketball, by the way, is a NON-contact sport. Look it up sometime.) Noone would come to the games. Those 5 and 6 digit salaries would be going through the window. All the endorsements would be worthless. Stadiums would shut down. People would be out of work. And all it takes to prevent this is for a few people to bend a rule or two.

At some point after you decide you're going for this writer thing,you start doing research. And you find list upon list of rules to follow.

Show, don't tell
Don't start with the weather
Don't start with dialog
Don't use adverbs
Avoid continuous tenses

Maybe you’re starting to feel like young Simba, up to your ears in people saying what you can and can’t do. Maybe you too, can’t wait for the day you’ll be King. Of the Publishing World at least.

YOU MUST BE A PIRATE
Elizabeth: Wait! You have to take me to shore. According to the Code of the Order of the Brethren...
Barbossa: First, your return to shore was not part of our negotiations nor our agreement so I must do nothing. And secondly, you must be a pirate for the pirate's code to apply and you're not. And thirdly, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.

Let me let you in on a little secret. Those lists and lists of rules? Readers don’t have those. How many times have you seen books with little literary or publishing merit make bestsellers lists? Why is that?

Because readers like them. They don’t analyse them according to any set of rules. They read them, and pass the word on to their friends, who buy their own copies and read them, and then tell their friends. Granted, this is a simplified version which doesn’t take into account the big wheels of the publishing machine, but, another little secret for you. Those rules that you revere so much, they don’t trump a good well-written story. If you know how to break them.

HOW TO BREAK THE RULES
Jack Sparrow: [after Will draws his sword] Put it away, son. It's not worth you getting beat again.
Will Turner: You didn't beat me. You ignored the rules of engagement. In a fair fight, I'd kill you.
Jack Sparrow: That's not much incentive for me to fight fair, then, is it?

I've always been a rule-breaker. In high school, I was legendary for never being in the right uniform, and I had one teacher who would joke every time I showed at his class, "Look, it's a new student!" Yet, somehow, I was hardly ever in actual trouble. And I made it through high school (and university) with semi-decent grades.
Maybe I'm a rebel without a cause, but I refuse to be a rebel without common sense. The reason I was never in any major trouble was because I knew the rules. I knew the School Rules better than the teachers or the Principal. I knew how to break the rules in ways which would keep me out of trouble. I knew which rules were important, and which ones I could flout without causing much more than a nuisance.

If you want to break the rules, you have to do it the right way. First you have to know the rules. Don't expect that you can just do whatever and it's going to be cool. Know the rules. Understand why they're there. They tell you not to start with dialog. That’s because you don’t know who’s speaking, nor are you attached to them yet. But if your novel revolves around the shock of a nation finding out that their president's gay, by all means, start with him uttering the words.

ART VS SCIENCE
Jack Sparrow: The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can't. But pirate is in your blood, boy, so you'll have to square with that some day. And me, for example, I can let you drown, but I can't bring this ship into Tortuga all by me onesies, savvy? So, can you sail under the command of a pirate, or can you not?

I know I’m full of shocking revelations today, but have another anyhow. Writing is not a science!

In science, every time you put the same variables together in a controlled environment, you get the same result. But in art, you can’t control half the variables, and what worked in 1990 might not work in 2010. What works in New York, might not work in Tokyo or Italy. Don’t believe me? Check out fashion. If I went anywhere else dressed like they do here in Japan, I’d be in a mental institution before I could get off the plane!

THEY’RE MORE LIKE GUIDELINES ANYWAY
So, the moral of the story?
Do your research. Learn the rules. Read Elmore Leonard, Stephen King, Cliff Pickover, and whoever else you can find who’s written about writing. Understand each thing they say. Decide how it applies to you and your work. And if you need to, but only if you NEED to, break the rules. After all, “You're [writers]. Hang the code, and hang the rules. They're more like guidelines anyway."

By the way, if you’re ever bored, watch Pirates of the Caribbean and replace every instance of the word “pirate” with “writer”.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Sweetest Tooth Winners Announced!

In a strange twist of fate, I managed to win contest the same day I had my own to announce. I won INTO THE WILD NERD YONDER on the fabulous Natalie Whipple's blog. Aspiring writers, check her blog out. She often has very informative posts about publishing-y stuff.

I also got an honourable mention in Amy's contest for my fortune cookie for Edward Cullen:


And now onto the Sweetest Tooth. Watch the vlog to find out if you won! :D video

Winners shoot me an email with a mailing address at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com.
Congratulations to you both.

Kids in the 80's

TV was fantastic for kids in the 80's. I'm not even touching the amazing number of excellent cartoons we had, either. Live action was it.

We had Johnny Depp as a cop on 21 Jumpstreet (1987-1991)


We learned the Facts Of Life with Nacy McKeon and Kim Fields (1979-1988). I think this is where we first met Arnold from Diff'rent Strokes too.


Survived Growing Pains with Kirk Cameron (1985-1992)


And then we endured a Full House with his sister, Candace Cameron (this info courtesy of Laura and Bob Saget. (1987-1995)


More to come next week!

Don't forget to enter The Sweetest Tooth. Click on the picture in the sidebar for the link. Only a few hours left for you to make your claim for the 7 craziest KitKat flavours you've ever had!