Friday, February 25, 2011

SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR! Winner, review, giveaway

Of course,. Mr. Random originally selected the one person who elected NOT to win the book. So I had to roll the diceys again and the winner of 1 copy of Th1rteen R3asons Why is....



Today I've got the book that turned me on to Matthew Quick up for grabs.

From Back Cover:

Maybe I am a freak- but I'm one hopeful misfit, and you could be worse things in this world.

True? True.


Sorta Like a Rock Star is the story of Amber Appleton, a self-proclaimed freak, who's so poor she's living in her mother's schoolbus. Still, Amber finds a way to the rock in several people's lives- from the old folks at the home she visits weekly to her Korean ladies' English class to her 4 best friends, the other misfit members of Franks Freak Force Federation.

One thing I didn't love:
It took a while to get rolling. I felt like I was in a backdrop, but I fell so hard for Amber that I held on. And, boy, am I glad I did!

The bitsies I loved:

There were two things that I really adored about this book, above the other million things that I just loved.

Firstly, this book has important 'issues' in the background.

'Whoa! Isn't that a bad thing? Shouldn't important issues be at the front?'

Lemme explain.

There are a million and one books about Christians, or about being the only Black kid, or about special-needs characters, or immigrants. But I hate feeling like every book with an issue is ABOUT that issue. Can't I just read about a black character? Why does said Black character HAVE TO be struggling with being Black? Some of us are past that. Are we implying that a Black character who is not struggling with being Black is the same as a white character?

This book features all of the things I mentioned above, but isn't ABOUT any of them. It gives them a chance to just exist without taking centrestage. And it's fabulous.

Secondly, I loved the irreverence.

There's a general feeling that if you talk about a sensitive issue, you have to use a sensitive tone. Everyone is so PC these days that noone wants to make a joke about any group unless they are a part of it and can therefore claim they meant no prejudice.

Not Amber Appleton. She refers to Jesus as "JC" and even goes so far as to call him as a "sucka!" She calls her Vietnam veteran friend on his bullcrap. She cusses out a blind old lady in a wheelchair.

And even though she does all this, it's not evil or bitter; it's actually 100% Amber optimism, and people can't help but love her for it.

And I can't help but love Matthew Quick for writing this book.

To win:

Be a follower
Tell me one way you're optiimistic
Comment by 11.59 pm EST

Good luck!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

For my Writer Friends

It's a chore, writer friends, it's a chore

To plug away at the keyboard when your friends head out the door

To thir parties, to their movies, to their lives

You try to remember those days and it breaks you out in hives

But you press on, 'cause you yearn for so much more

Still, it's a chore, writer friends, it's a chore

It's a pain, writer friends, it's a pain

When loved ones ask, "Why do you do this again?"

And you know the book is sucky and you want to watch it die

And your CP said the wrong thing and you only want to cry

You'll never get an agent or a deal, you'll go insane

Deep inside, you know it isn't true, but it's a pain

Dry your tears, writer friends, dry your tears

You are the bravest soldier, to show the world your fears

And hopes and dreams and loves, while the rejections pile high

You've got the skill and the will, it's just a matter of time

It'll be worth all the sleepliess nights and worried years

Give us a smile, writer friends, dry your tears.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Time Travel Tuesday- International Soca

It's been a while since I've taken you back with music. Today we're going back to a place that you may never have been.


Calypso music originated in Trinidad and Tobago. There are two types of calypso: Kaiso (social commentary) which tends to be slower and have hard-hitting lyrics about issues, and Soca, which tends to be faster.

Here's RAGGA RAGGA by RPB from Barbados, 1990's. This song was played at the 1996 NBA finals in Chicago. I'm always trying to convince people that Barbados is not that small, and we don't all know one another. But I do know him and he lives 5 minutes from my house. lol.

WHO LET THE DOGS OUT? by Anslem Douglas, Trinidad and Tobago, 1998. You may know the Baha Men cover of this song.

SWING ENGINE by Burning Flames, Antigua, 1990's. Another song of theirs ISLAND GIRL is featured in the movie WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S 2, but in the Caribbean, this one is way more popular. I should mention that another feature of soca is 'double entendre'. Songs often have a double meaning and there are often sexual references. This guy was "swinging engine all night, in [her] gearbox, in [her] gearbox all night."

TEMPTED TO TOUCH by Rupee, 2003, appeared on the soundtrack of AFTER THE SUNSET starring Pierce Brosnan. It went to number on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Chart. We went to the same school, but he left the same year I entered, so I only saw him when he came back to do concerts.

TURN ME ON by Kevin Lyttle, St. Vincent, 2004. The female voice is the "Queen of Soca," Allison Hinds from Barbados.

DOLLAR WINE, Byron Lee, Jamaica, 1980's.

In 2007, the West Indies (some day I'll explain the difference between the West Indies and the Caribbean ) hosted the Cricket World Cup. Shaggy (Jamaican descent), Rupee (Barbados) and Faye Ann Lyons (Trinidad and Tobago) sang the Official World Cup song, GAME OF LOVE AND UNITY. By the way, Jamaica, Trinindad and Tobago and Barbados are 'the big 3' of the Caribbean. Will try and remember to explain that some day as well.

There's a good chance you've heard the number one selling soca hit of all time. It's (FEELIN') HOT HOT HOT by Arrow, from Montserrat. This song has been featured in THE LITTLE MERMAID 2, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, UGLY BETTY, and several others. It was also the theme of the 1986 FIFA WORLD CUP. The Philadelphia Flyers (NHL) play it after the 4th goal.

I hope you like this little taste of the Caribbean. And if you're in the cold, like I am, I hope it made you feel a little warmer.

PS, My thoughts and prayers are with New Zealand tonight. I'm not sure if any of you guys are from there, but I hope you're all safe wherever you are in the world.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Insomnia (Momm)

Happy new week! lol.

I've been wrestling with a bout of insomnia recently. I think lots of writers, whether by choice or nature, are insomniacs. Maybe we're insomniacs because we're writers; maybe we're writers because we're insomniacs. Who knows?

But it may get to a point where all you want is a good night's sleep. In that case, here's some of what I've uncovered on insomnia.


Insomnia is now defined by QUALITY of sleep, rather than quantity. So if you get 5 hours of sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and able to get through your day, then you're not an insomniac. If, on the other hand, you sleep 10 hours every night, but you toss and turn, wake up 4 or 5 times, and in the morning you feel like you've just been steam-rolled, then you are an insomniac.


Here are a few things that may contribute to your insomnia.

Medicine: Some medicines cause drowsiness, but there are a few which can stop you from sleeping. Asthma meds, BP meds, and antidepressants are known for this, but ask you doctor if insomnia is a side-effect of any of the meds you use.

Breathing: If your breathing is disrupted during sleep, it will wake you up. Disrupted breathing can be a result of sleep apnea or a myriad of sinus/nasal problems.

: Increased tension due to worrying.

Medical problems: heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, etc... can cause insomnia.

Pain: Even mild pain can cause disruptions in sleep, which can lead to sensitivity to pain. Sad little circle of life.

Light: Even small amounts of light can cause sleep disruption. In addition, the light from computer screens is particularly troublesome, because this light occurs naturally only in daylight, tricking your body into thinking it's not time to sleep.

Depression: Offsets natural biological rhythms. It starts a cycle of not sleeping at night, napping in the day, not feeling sleepy, not sleeping...


Yahoo! Health recently featured a list of foods that can help combat insomnia.
Cherries contain melatonin- a chemical the body produces to induce sleep.
Bananas contain potassium and magnesium- muscle relaxants. They also contain an amino acid converted to serotonin (a relaxing neurotransmitter) and melatonin.
Milk contains the same amino acid.
Carb-rich foods (like toast) trigger insulin production, which induces sleep by speeding up the release of tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals that relax you and send you to sleep.
Oatmeal triggers a rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin production and the release of sleep-inducing brain chemicals. Oats are also rich in melatonin.

Exercise: Vigorous exercise combats depression, releases stress and increases serotonin levels. Also weight is a factor in many of the medical problems and breathing issues that cause insomnia.

Go dark: Switch of your laptop an hour before bed (!!!! I KNOW, RIGHT???). Use dark curtains to block light from the street. Charge your cellphone in another room and use a clock without a lighted dial. Read on an e-ink reader, rather than a backlit one.

Medication/treatment: Use medication or therapy to alleviate pain that may be causing insomnia. Ask your doctor to develop a program to help you fight your high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, etc.

Relaxation: Try a deep relaxation technique. You can look it up online, but basically, lie still, clear your mind, and concentrate on relaxing muscles one by one and breathing deeply. Also, you can try yoga.

Alcohol causes shallow sleep.
Smoking affects the lungs and nicotine keeps the brain from resting.
Preserved meats cause the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that makes us feel alert and wired.
Chocolate contains caffeine, and tyrosine, a stimulating amino acid.
Spicy food- digestive disruptions can also cause trouble with your sleep.
Red Bull, Coffee and other stimulants... well, they stimulate.
Napping. If you sleep in the day, why would you need to sleep at night?

Establish a routine: Go to sleep at the same time and get up at the same time. Use the bed only for sleep and sex, not reading or watching tv.

Don't fight it: If you can't sleep, get up. Lying in bed when you can't sleep, increases anxiety and lessens your chances of getting to sleep. Don't watch the clock either. That also increases anxiety.

It's Monday (Well, Tuesday here- 12:36 am- sigh) and sadly, that's what's on my mind.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Scary World We Live In

It's official!

Borders has filed for Bankruptcy, owing over $200 million US, and is set to close about 200 stores.

Barbados doesn't have any major chain bookstores. So as far as I'm concerned, if I, book-lover from countries where you don't exist, know you're name, then you're huge! Borders, Barnes and Noble, Hudson, Dymocks, Kinokuniya (Asia): they're all invincible. Or they were.

I could try (and probably fail) to illustrate the complex reasons why Borders is where it is today. But I'm no economist. And I believe that wherever there is a stack of complex problems, there is a single underlying one. The reason Borders went bankrupt is simple: they didn't sell enough books.

That's a scary thought as an aspiring author. But I'm not one to sit around and mope -well, not indefinitely anyhow. So here's my list of ways for us to fight back.

1. Buy Books.

I'm always seeing people recommending that aspiring authors read. Reading is great. I do lots of it. Maybe too much. But authors make money each time they sell a book. Not
each time someone lends their girlfriend a copy. Not every time someone blogs or reviews or jumps up and down screaming how much they love the book. (Sometimes they make money from libraries, but that often has a limit and I don't know if it's as high as royalties.) That is the bottom line. Our future salaries are tied to books sold.

So buy. If you can, buy a book a month. Or if you already buy, see if you can increase what you buy. It doesn't have to be spectacular. Maybe you bought 10 books last year, you could aim to take it up to 14 this year. Everybody is up in arms about the economy and how broke they are. But the truth is, most of us are not so bad that we can't afford to spend an extra $10-$20 US once in a while.

Think about it. If authors aren't buying, who will?

2. Give Books

There are a few times each year when we give presents. How about making some of these books? Personally, I love giving people gifts that they will LOVE! So I put a lot of thought into my gifts, just so I can watch their faces light up for that first 3 seconds. Sometimes I'll be reading a book and think, my neighbour, W, would LOVE this!

I don't think you should give a book just for the sake of giving a book. Nor should you give a book strictly because you love it. It's important to take the recipient into consideration. You might just be able to turn someone onto a new author or sub-genre. And before you can say, "Books rock!" they're off buying more all on their own.

Also, most of you are bloggers. Do giveaways. For your bloggy anniversaries or other milestones. Or if you really, really love a book. It'll be another copy sold, as well as some publicity.

3. Cultivate a Book Culture

Remember you were a little kid, 5 years or so? Maybe you were like me, and you were already a little read-aholic. But even if you were, you may remember your siblings or friends, wanting the latest toys, and being angry when they got a book.

Read to your kids. Before they're old enough to read for themselves, read a bedtime story or a chapter of a book to them. Apart from developing a love for reading, this has other benefits. Reading can help calm a child and help them sleep. (TV and electronics and even running up and down, provide too much stimulus making it hard to sleep.)

Read with your kids. When your kids are older, let them read to you. Once again there are perks outside reading. Adults have less and less time to spend one on one with kids when they're not racing to or from school or work. This act will give you half hour- or even just 10 minutes- of bonding time. And if your child is anything like my 6 yr-old, it will also result in the occasional hilarity. (Approximate line of text that Filch says in HARRY POTTER: "It might be nothing much to you, but it's an extra hour of work for me." What my son read: "...but it's an extra hore of work..." lol. Poor thing. He's only 6. I don't know who convinced him he could read Harry Potter. It certainly wasn't me.)

Discuss books.
It's not just the gritty books that have interesting themes. There's discussion material everywhere. The YA books I've read in the last year, have started me thinking about:

how societal pressure affects us
how teens deal with self-image
how much goes on under the surface
how materialism affects us
the possible evils of our governmental system
the possible evils of capitalism

It's easy to start the dialogue, "I was reading this book the other day, and it got me to realising how few of us ever meet in person, rather than reading blogs, linking up on facebook or tweeter, or calling up on the phone..." Before you know it, you've got a discussion. Then someone wants to know what the name of the book was. And then, they're off to find a copy.

There are 3 to start you off. What else can we do to save this little piece of the world we want so badly to inhabit?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Th1rteen R3asons Why- Giveaway and Winner

The winner of last's week's giveaway of MATCHED is ...

The Book Pixie!

Email me at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com with your address.

Today I'm giving away one of my favourite books OF ALL TIME!

Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher


Clay recieves a set of tapes from Hannah, who committed suicide. On these tapes, she tells of the events which led up to her death.


I'm sorry, but I'm doing two things. Because there are two things that stood out for me above all else.


They always warn you about switching perspectives. In fact, most books these days, YA especially, hug one character pretty tightly. But Jay Asher pulls off this technique flawlessly. He sets it up so that you always know whether you're reading Hannah or Clay. And using cassette tapes to make a dead girl talk? Brilliant!


I'm not suicide expert or anything, but one of the things you hear - on movies, from friends, on the news - is "I had no idea." People always think that they should see these huge pointers before someone commits (or attempts) suicide. But I'm a long-time depression sufferer. And even though that's not the same thing, I know that triggers can be really small. Microscopic.

I also know that little things add up. If an atom fell on you, you wouldn't even feel it. Even if it was the heaviest atom in the periodic table. (I should so know what that is, but I have no idea, and I'm well-drugged on Conta-c right now, and not particularly inclined to look it up. ) It's just an atom, right. But if you got together a bunch of atoms and made, let's see, the Eiffel Tower, and that fell on you... well, you'd definitely feel that.

People are more fragile than you think sometimes. To you it might just be a giggle. To someone else, it might be the last straw.

If I could my mouth for a million years, I couldn't tell you how much this book affected me.

Today's rules:
1. Be a follower
2. Open internationally
3. Answer this question in the comments "Did you ever do or say some little (bad) thing to someone and felt guilty after?"
4. Open until next Wednesday, 11.59 pm EST.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Who

Kurt Vonnegut's 7th rule of writing:

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

I've struggled with what to write, where to set it, how to write it, etc, for a long time- almost the entire time I've been writing.

See, the majority of publishing comes out of America, and it's tempting to think that you have to fit some American norm. And I don't. I'm a Black, female from the Caribbean. I don't fit ANY American norms. (I do happen to fit every Barbadian norm however.)

It took me a while to start trying to write books set in the Caribbean. I'm stil working the kinks out. But then I realised that the Caribbean is a huge population, which is currently not catered to. At all.

There are 50,000 people between the ages of 0 and 14 in Barbados. There are at least a million if you add up the entire English speaking Caribbean. And right now, they have NOTHING written for them. I think the difference is more than just setting. Maybe it's because of our accelarated education system. Maybe it's because we see so much more of the outside world. But teenagers in the Caribbean don't suffer from the same things that afflict other teens. Maybe that's why YA still hasn't caught on in Barbados.

On top of that, as a teen, I always felt like literature left me out specifically. I uttered my first cuss word at the tender age of 17. But I wasn't a sheltered child. I knew things. I didn't think the world was all daisies and cheerleading competitions. I knew about sex, and drugs, and death- some of the darker themes you see in YA.

I was in a tough place. Because books about sex and drugs and death almost ALWAYS feature rough language. And books without cussing are almost always about shallower themes.

And with all that in mind, I know who I want to write for.

1. Teens (and adults- I plan to write a women's fic or two some day) from, or with an interest in the Caribbean. (And possibly Japan or the other random places I may write about some day.)

These days the grand majority of books are set in the US. That's followed by the UK. And random places in Europe, Australia, and everywhere else vie for third. I don't have a problem with any of these places, or really with anywhere else. It's just that when you read as much as I do, you need a little more variety.

2. People who aren't into cussing, but don't mind deeper themes.

Like I said, this is a black hole. But I don't see why a story that includes dark themes has to have bad language. Gone With the Wind (1939) was the first movie to have the word 'Damn' onscreen, but it was not the first show with an angry/frustrated character. The advantage that books have over movies is filtration. There are a million and one ways to let readers know that someone cussed without using the cussword. I can't think of a single natural way to do it onscreen.

3. People who don't think deep themes mean unhappy endings, or that the whole story has to be a tear-jerker.

Recently, I've been reading lots of deep-theme YA. Actually, that's at least half of the contemporary YA these days. And I am almost guaranteed to end up bawling. And there's a good chance I'll be in a "why-does-the-world-suck-out-to here?" mood when I'm through.

But why do I have to be depressed because the world sucks? No offense to the world or anything, but it always sucks. And I have no intent on being miserable every day.

Maybe it's the bipolar in me, but I'm on a mission. A mission to represent a sad story in a not-so-sad way. A funeral can be a mourning of a death. But I'd rather it be a celebration of life.

Howz about u guys? Who do you write for?

PS, Micheal asked yesterday about using "fabumazing." Feel free to use any of madness. If it's larger than a single word, please quote. And I've locve it if you linkied, but you don't absolutely have to. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rhyme to write by

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of MATCHED by Allie Condie.

You remember that old wedding rhyme?

Something old,
Something new,
Something borrowed,
Something blue.

Well, apparently I'm in a poetic mood. Because I wrote 2 poems yesterday and, as I walking to school, another came to me. It's like the wedding rhyme, only it doesn't forecast a good marriage, but a good book. Here are the ingredients:

Something tiny,
Something huge,
Someone to feel,
Something to do.

Something Tiny

Your book is one of millions, but what makes a book stand out from the madding crowd? Details. A little over a year ago,(REALLY??? Have I been blogging that long?) I posted about the devil in the details. In that post, I talked about how people compared Avatar (the one with blue people, not the one with the benders of different elements) to Pocahontas and Fern Gully. They said it was the same story. But that's not true. There are people who love Avatar and aren't Pocahontas or Fern Gully fans. And vice versa.

Every story has been told before. What can you do to make your story stand out? Can you bring some innovation to the way it's told? (Whatever your feeling about Avatar, it brought advances in on-screen visuals.) Will you offer a new twist to an eternal plot? A new setting? A wildly different character?

Yesterday (or today, depending on where you are in the world) was Valentine's Day. I saw a lot of people on my facebook quarreling about it. Why should we get all up in arms, doing special things for one day, when we don't do anything else all year? It's easy to get caught up in the monumental, but don't forget, it's the little things that matter.

Something Huge

How can you need something tiny, but still need something huge?

Those little things that you tell the story with- they need to fit into a bigger framework. Because the big picture is where people connect with one another. For example, I like quirky books, and I like books that make me think (not at the expense of story), and I like books that make me warm and fuzzy. Now you may like your books dark; or with racing plots; or featuring ruthless, rugged heros. I like YA. Maybe you like sci-fi. But what brings us together is the love of books.

Let's take Twilight as an example. There are lots of little things that aren't my cup of tea in that book. Bella is a bit of a twat, to be quite blunt. And the writing itself is not the most graceful ever. But I love Twilight. And so do millions of others. Why? Prince Charming. Guy appears and whisks girl who was never going to get involved with anyone else off in a typhoon of pure love? Yup, that's as Prince Charming as it comes. We can talk about being practical women of the 21st century until the cows come home. There's still a little piece of most of us that yearns for the 'perfect' love.

A good book taps into one of these overarching ideas. Here are a few more big name examples, accompanied by the big picture idea I see in them:
Harry Potter - good vs evil
The Hunger Games - man vs the establishment
The Duff - self esteem
To Kill a Mockingbird - injustice
Th1rteen R3asons Why - death

Someone to Feel

Books and stories have moved from their earlier purpose of educating to entertaining. In order to entertain, they have to connect. They do that through the people in the story.

I'd like to point out that I said 'feel', not 'love'. Sometimes, you read a book, and you just despise someone. Draco Malfoy, for example - even moreso since the movies.

Also, these days, the people in books need to feel real. If they're not, we won't be drawn into loving or hating them, or pretending that Peeta just kissed us instead of Katniss.

Something to Do

Right-o, now we've got the little things, the big picture, and the people. But we can't just sitting around all day watching Disney movies. (Even if that would be awesome! Curled up against Wesley Rush-from The Duff- swoon!) Now we need to do something.

What we do depends on the type of book. In a murder mystery, we look for clues, and solve the case. In a thriller, or suspense, we might get stalked. Or do some stalking. (Us writer-bloggers are well practised in that art. lol.) In a romance, we'll fall head over heals in love.

At the outset it would seem impossible to mess this part up. But it's the hardest part for me. You see, it's quite possible to spend the entire time doing things, and still have nothing happen. It's like how you realise another year has come and gone and you haven't crossed anything off your list. It's not that you haven't done anything all year. You got out of bed, and showered, and ate, and went to the bathroom- at a bare minimum. But you've done nothing to advance your life.

This is true of books too. What is going on in the book, must advance towards the ultimate end. Would you read a murder-mystery where the detective spent the entire book eating, drinking and making merry and then the criminal turned himself in at the end, out of sheer boredom?

Probably not.

All together now

As I wrote this post, I purposefully avoided calling any of the parts by their technical names, but I'm sure you knew what they were.

Something tiny (hook)
Something huge (theme)
Someone to feel (characters)
Something to do (plot)

Together, I think these make up the list of things a book can do to sell itself. (There are two other major elements of a book. style/voice and setting, but I don't think they can sell a book on their own. You can't pick up on voice until you read the book, since cover copy isn't written by the book's author. And setting only sells a book when it's part of the hook, think Hogwarts.)

Did you find the rhyme useful? Do you agree/disagree? Which of these are you strong/weak on? Which of these, in the absence of recs from friends/bloggers, will make you pick up a book? And which makes you love a book?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine Mia

Sarah Enni, Tahereh H. Mafi, Kristin Miller, and Kate Hart set up the Blogger Lovefest. I was a bit worried that I'd get someone I didn't know. And you already know how I feel about saying things I don't mean.

But I got lucky. Because I actually follow my Valentine and I love her blog. So I present, the fantabulous:


Here's a limmerick in her honour!

There once was an fabumazing blogger gurl
Who's doodles won smiles thru the whole world
With stories galore
You'll roll on the floor
literaryjamandtoast.blogspot is her url!

lol- how yuh like dem rhymes?

But really, Mia is awesome! And her drawings do rock. And her stories are hilarious. Check her out. You've got my permish.

Happy Valentine's peoplez! I hope you love with all your heart. And you get it all right back.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Matched (Giveaway and Winner)

And the winner of last week's



Alleged author!

Email me :)

Today, I'm doing a quick review of MATCHED by Ally Condie. (Remember what I said at the last review? I'm going to try to pick out one thing, that hopefully you haven't seen everywhere. And that may make my review a little more helpful.)


(E.J. suggested that I add one bad thing, so here goes.)
The only thing I didn't like about the book was that it dragged for a bit in the opening chapters (not the first, but right after). Of course, this may just be me. While I love cover copy letting me know what the book is about, I always feel impatient until I come to the part the cover talks about.


There are so so so many excellent things about this book, but I'm going to tell you about a kind of random one. Chapter endings. Condie's chapter endings are absolutely amazing. Which is something I love. Because people most commonly pause their reading at the end of a chapter. And every chapter is a cliff-hanger or a wow, you just have to read on. (I also hate awesome chapter endings. I makes it impossible to go to the bathroom, take a shower or sleep- I can do pretty much anything else while I read- and pretty much means you HAVE to read the book in one go.

Today's giveaway is open only to followers.
It's open internationally and until Wednesday 11.59 pm.

To enter simply answer this question:

Would you give up everything you've ever dreamed of for love?

PS, It's been a hectic week, and I leave within the hour for the biggest(?) snow festival in the world. Apologies if I don't see you guys til Monday.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dive Right In

There's no snow in Barbados. There was snow in Connecticut, where I spent 2 years, but I really didn't have to deal with it that much.

And then I moved to Japan. 600 km North of Tokyo. (Exactly.) Luckily I'm on the side of the mountains that only gets "a little" snow. (Did I mention we had 4 feet on New Year's?) We get these crazy temperature swings from living in the valley. In the day, we get about 6 hours of direct sunshine (not to be confused with time when the sun is up, but behind the mountain) and everything warms up and melts. Then the sun drops behind the other mountain, and all that melted snow freezes.

So I spend most of winter on an ice cap.

My first year here, I walked really slowly. I tried different ways of letting my foot strike the ground in an effort to not feel like I was always 1.5 seconds from eating pavement. I went about 3 months without falling. But I gave myself all sorts of back aches and knee aches and probably a few wrinkles, being so tense all the time.

Eventually I fell. There was absolutely nothing I could have done about it. Unfortunately I faceplanted at the same time that one of my students walked out of the fish market. lol. But after I fell, I relaxed, a little. Because falling wasn't really that bad. Sure, it was mortification for the 2 seconds my student stared at me. But then I was on my feet. And on my way.

And now, I'm not so tense. And I don't have muscle pains. Everywhere I go, I get there faster. I may fall. But I'm cool with that.

How many times are people like this?

The kids I teach, they're afraid to answer questions, in case they're wrong. People are afraid to try all sorts of things, because they might fail. As writers, we're afraid to show others our work, or even write, in case it's horrible.

But here's the thing about everything you do. When you stay in your comfort zone then the bare minimum of progress is all you can hope for. You have to go for it. Because you may fall. But you'll get there faster.

It's Monday. That's what's on my mind.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Astraea, Interview, Paranormal Dads

This Thursday, publisher Stephanie Taylor is Talking Back.

But first, the winner of last's week's copy of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYLIST:


(You're a lucky one this year!)


Welcome to another edition of Talk Back Thursdays. Today PoC welcomes Stephanie Taylor to the series. (Our first publisher! Yay!)

Hello, Stephanie! Welcome to Points of Clarification. Your publishing company, Astraea Press opened it's e-doors on February 1st. Congratulations! What made you want to start a publishing company?
Thanks for having me, Claire! I decided to start a publishing company mainly because I noticed a gap in the market for clean romance epublishers. My own work falls into a black hole. Not quite inspirational, definitely not erotica, but I have to compete with erotica authors. So Astraea offers a place for writers who don't want to compete with erotica.

So, putting the romance back in romance? Are you only looking for romance novels?
No, we take all genres. Technically, our slogan is "Where Fiction Meets Virtue". I also toyed with the idea of "Putting Heart Back into Fiction." Basically, we just want work that doesn't use language or graphic sex to get a point across.

What services do you offer your clients as a small publisher? Do you offer the full editorial process? What can you offer that a bigger company may not?

Astraea offers the full editorial process by yours truly (and hopefully I'll be hiring some new editors soon). We offer a lot of things bigger companies may not offer. I'm directly involved with all of my authors. You can ask them. I participate in our forum conversation and help them with marketing. My marketing director is working on personalized marketing plans geared toward the specific area my authors live in. These are just the highlights! For a complete list, go to

What formats will you be employing (e-book, traditional, audio, etc)?

Right now we're focused on ebooks and print on demand. Audio is in the works, but nothing in our immediate future.

Finish this sentence, “Before you send your book to us,…”
research us, edit your manuscript and relax. We don't bite!

Thanks for taking time from your undoubtedly busy schedule to hang out with us, Stephanie!

Today's giveaway is a copy of Rebekah Purdy's MY DAD'S A PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR, the first YA release from Astraea Press.

(Oh, yeah. One thing that doesn't come up in the interview: the AWESOME cover art!)

1. Today's giveaway is (mostly) digital, but if you don't own an e-reader, you can still receive a PDF. (If you absolutely prefer a physical book, you can have a pre-order of that instead.)
2. Today's giveaway is open to anyone, follower or not, wherever you are in the world.
3. You've got until Wednesday 11.59 pm EST to enter by commenting.

And don't forget to swing by Astraea and check out the new and upcoming releases.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Not Just Any Agent

You've got until 11.59 pm EST to enter to win Matthew Quick's THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

Remember last week there was a hot mess going on in the publishing blogosphere over whether or not authors should give bad reviews or even review at all? YA highway had a great collection of the linksies.

It all started when a blogger asked about book reviews. Agent Jill Corcoran said,

"for book review bloggers...if you diss one of my clients' books, I probably will not want to sign you. Editors feel similarly."

I completely agree.

"But Claire," you wail, "didn't you say- just yesterday- that you have to be you and say what you have to say?"

Yes, I did.

But if I don't like a book by one of Jill's clients, and agents always acquire books they LURVE, then there's a decent chance her vision and mine are different. (Before I go on, let me say I have nothing against Jill Corcoran, who happens to represent one of the bloggers I most admire.)

But let's take a minute to examine the flip side of the coin.

If I dislike/hate a book an agent represents, why on Earth would I want that agent representing me?

The law of supply and demand gives agents power over unsigned authors. We, as aspiring authors are so eager to have an agent, that we're eager for ANY agent. And in our haste, we forget two things.

1. Your Agent is Your Employee.

I'm not saying this because I think authors should be making agents jump through the hoops some bosses have their employees jump through. Definitely not. But I just wish authors would remember this before they are signed. Author produces a product. Author then pays somebody to refine and sell that product. That somebody is called an agent.

It doesn't make sense querying any and every agent. And really it's not enough to just look at the genres an agent represents to make the decision. The fact that an agent reps YA or horror or romance or literary doesn't mean they rep your niche of the market. The books an agent has repped are a part of their resumé/CV. So is their blog, and the interviews they’ve done, and anything their clients have said.

Would you hire an employee if they didn't have anything good on their resumé? Or the more likely case: would you hire someone whose qualifications were excellent, but more suited to a different position? You wouldn't want a Cessna pilot flying your Boeing 777, even if he was the best Cessna pilot in the whole world.

If you are sure you want an editorial agent, don’t query those whose clients say they’re hands-off. If you want an agent that’s 999% ALL-BUSINESS, then don’t query the one with unicorns on her blog. If an agent reps a book you despise, then you’ve got different tastes. And you probably want your tastes to gel with your agent, because

2. An Agent is a Partner

But how can an agent be both an employee and a partner?

Quick analogy:
Let's say there are two small grocery stores near your house. One is on your way to work, and one is 7 minutes drive in the wrong direction. At the one near your house, there's a horrible dude working the counter in the store. He stares at you the whole time like you're a criminal. He never opens his mouth. Unless he's saying something incredibly rude.

The guy at the out-of-the way store is the polar opposite. He greets you as soon as you walk in the store. He makes friendly chitchat while he tallies your items and tells you to have a nice day. And you find yourself driving an extra 14 minutes to go to nice guy's store.

There's a decent chance that neither Nice Guy nor Rude Guy owns the store they work at. But they are more than just employees. They are partners. Because the owner wants you to get the sort of service that keeps you coming back. But he can't be there to give it to you himself. So he hopes that the guy he lives in his place will.

Your agent is your partner. You're working together to achieve an objective. Which means you need to have the same objective. The fact that the agent repped a book you don’t like does not guarantee they will be on a different page, but it means there’s a chance. Why would you take that risk when there are so many other agents who rep books you love?

Also, like the store employee, your agent is the face/email that takes your product to others. Once again, do your research. Getting an agent is hard work. Why go through all that for someone who won’t work for you?


It's all been done before

That doesn't mean you can't do it just as well, or even better. Today on Time Travel Tuesday, we're hitting up some remakes.

#1a If I Could, John Prine, 1997

#1b If I Could, Sunny Sweeney, 2007

#2a Heart of the Matter, Don Henley, 1989

#2b Heart of the Matter, India Arie, 2006

#3a Life Is a Highway, Tom Cochrane, 1991

#3b Life Is a Highway, Rascal Flatts, 2006

#4a (Can Anybody Find Me) Somebody to Love, Queen, 1976

#4b (Can Anybody Find Me) Somebody to Love, Anne Hathaway, 2004

(PS, It's a sad day when "Somebody to Love" in the youtube search, brings up NOT Queen, NOT Anne Hathaway, BUT JUSTIN BIEBER! But this comment on the Queen vid almost made up for it. "God, give us back Freddie Mercury, we'll send You justin bieber instead." )

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What I won't give

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.

Last week, I posted "On Subjectivity" and "How to Review a Book." I didn't realise it at the time, but it was a part of an online debate about whether or not authors, even aspiring ones, should review books.

And it got me to thinking...

What would I not give up in the name of being published?

There are three main things that jump to mind.


I can't sustain any amount of pretense very long. In the discussion about reviews last week, I heard several people say that, as a published author, you can't say certain things.

Not gonna happen. If I feel strongly about something, it's going to come out.

Thankfully, on the flipside, I don't feel strongly about much. Let's use reviews as an example. I think I've gushed about my love for two books: ANNA and the French Kiss and The Color Purple. And I've only ever named one book I can't stand. It's not really because I'm holding back. It's just that I'm in the middle of the road on 95% of life. This is why I don't make decisions well. I love 3%, hate 2% and for everything else, I'm easy okay.

But in that 5% of the time, when I love or hate something, it's pretty dang near impossible to shut me up. You see how every other analogy on here these days has to do with fitness/weight loss these days. That's my current addiction, and no matter how I say I'm not mentioning it, I end up doing so anyhow.

So, sorry Publishing World, society, and keeping-up-appearance-ers, on the odd chance that I actually have something to say, it IS going to get said.


Some time ago, I ranted about not being able to buy books on my Kindle while it's registered to Japan. This is an easily surmountable issue for me, since I've lived in 3 countries (and still receive mail in all 3), I just change the address.

But it's really important to me that my book be available worldwide, in e-book format at the very least. I'm 29. I've spent 24 of those years in Barbados, almost 3 in Japan and 2 in the US. So it doesn't make sense for me to have a book available only in the US. Or the UK. Or Canada. Or any other country with a large English langauge publishing sector. What's the sense in publishing a book if it's IMPOSSIBLE for my next-door neighbour, my best-friend, my mother, etc to buy a copy.

Even if did live in the US/Britain, this is something that will remain important to me. Growing up in Barbados, I hated the words, "Offer valid in the US only." You'll notice that all my contests (unless the prizes are being contributed by someone else) are international, despite whether or not it costs me extra to do so. No offense to Americans/Canadians, but I'm sometimes tempted to do contests that are open ONLY OUTSIDE the US/Canada, to even the playing field. And I just might do that, after I'm published.

I understand how world rights work for paper books, but I'm not sure about the e-book stuff. I'm not sure if I'll be able to do anythign about this. But you can bet your patootie, I'm going to try.


I guess this ties into number 1.

Right now, I don't have a very clear picture of the niche I want to carve for myself in the publishing world. But I know a few things about what I DON'T want to write. I don't want to write " Boy meets girl, spends entire book sexing girl" stories. I don't want to write stories set in an American high school. And I definitely don't want to write anything grittier than an Alabama road.

There are different ways of telling the same story. On the subject of grit, I walk a fine line. As a teen, one of my favourite books was all about this teen who was a borderline prostitute. But it didn't have a single sex scene in it. My friends, on the other hand, were reading Loveswept and Mills and Boons, which often featured 'respectable' characters, who'd jump one another's bones every 6 pages.

By the same token, there's also my fave movie as a teen: A BRONX TALE. I grew up watching it on TNT. I must have watched it 50 times. Then I bought a DVD of it in Canada. And it had SO MUCH CUSSING! I still love the TNT version. I haven't watched the DVD version since. Same story.

I understand professionalism and flexibility and all that jazz. But no agent or editor can make me fill my book with obscenities, even if said book is set in a strip club. (And yes, I have a significant portion of a novel set in a strip club.)

So there you have it:

I WILL be me.
I WILL do my best to be available internationally.
I WILL stay true to my vision.

Maybe I'm sacrificing a career I don't yet have, by saying these things. But they're important enough to me, that I'd rather stand behind them and not have the career, than have the career without them.

What would you not sacrifice for your writing? Or for anything else?

It's Monday (sorta). That's what's on my mind.