Monday, March 28, 2011

A world against Creatives

I was reading a post last week on the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog, about misunderstood Introverts, and I got to thinking about Creatives.

It's not so much that Creatives are misunderstood. It's more that the whole world is against us. That may be a tough pill for some people to swallow. After all, some of the richest people in the world (entrepreneurs, actors, singers, a few select writers) are Creatives.

People are always waving around their stories when they make it. Bill Gates quit school, they say. Yes, that's great. Now. You can bet that lots of his friends and family were all over him when he did it. That's the stage we're in as Creatives who haven't yet 'made it'.

'You want to spend how much on a conference?'
'What do you mean an MFA? You'll never get a job!'
'You're wasting your life away buried in that novel.'

Western culture values thinking, and working, outside the box. Society is willing to pay top dollar for it. But you're not supposed to live outside the box. Paying bills. Deadlines. Responsibilities. Following rules. It's great if we shine at our art. But we're still supposed to take care of all the things the Practical types do easily.

You don't see anyone asking their accountant to write fiction. (Yes, Marsha, I know you're a rare Creative accountant.) But they expect Creatives to play by the same rules as Practicals.

There's an American actor who recently went off the deep-end. I listened to some of his interviews online and, to my mind, a lot of it is a few marbles short of a bag. But he said something to the effect of 'I'm tired of pretending that I'm not the hottest thing since sunspots'. And it struck a chord with me.

Not that I AM the hottest thing since sunspots. But I do pretend. I think all Creatives do. Because our thoughts don't connect the way a Practical's do. We don't care about 'normal' things. A few years- or decades- of trying to explain our rationale to friends and family and we give up. Because they won't ever get it. And really, it can't be explained. Eventually, we all just pretend.

We appreciate practical concerns. We understand that someone provides a service, and sends a bill. We understand that the money we pay them will be used to pay someone's salary. We'd like that person to get that money. We'd love to give them the money that is due. But we, personally, have no inclination to make an actual effort that will result in the money changing from our hands to the relevant parties. In fact, it would be great if the money would just get up and wonder off to where it was supposed to be, all on it's own. (I can not wait for the day that I have the sort of money to employ someone to do these things for me!)

There are always stories about celebs doing crazy things. And people respond by saying that the money and the fame changed them.

Maybe it didn't. Maybe they just had to pretend all this time. Tone themselves down so that they didn't freak people out. Try to be and do what society expects. And maybe the fame is just what the doctor ordered. A chance to be themselves.

Or maybe it's just me.

Monday, and that's what's on my mind.

(PS, I've gone volunteering on the Iwate coast, tsunami area, so no blog tomorrow. Hope to be back on Wednesday. Don't worry. I will stay safe.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

WASTED- Review, giveaway, winner

The winner of WHAT KATY DID is...

Jon Paul!

Congrats Jon Paul. Email me a mailing address at muchlanguage(at)gmail(dot)com.

Today I'm giving away a copy of WASTED by Nicola Morgan, winner of the Coventry 'Read it or Else' award. (I'm trying for a little internationalisation- it's a British book.)

From Nicola Morgan's website:

Wasted is about luck, chance, risk, fate, danger, passion, hate, alcohol, music, and why leaving the house a few seconds later could change your life.

Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack’s luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack’s game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin.


This book is different from anything I've ever read. And for that reason, I feel like you either hate it or love it. And I love it.

From a stylistic point of view, it's rare. It's a YA novel written in omniscient POV, meaning it follows all the characters and has access to information they don't know. But the story really couldn't be told any other way. It's almost as if some unseen Goddess of Luck is telling it, showing us possibilities that don't occur and how close they came to occuring, an almost mocking Jack and Jess for tinking they know, but not really having a clue.

The presentation of different scenarios makes the book read a little like a Choose Your Own Adventure. (Remember those? Where you picked between alternatives and it influenced the end result of the story?)

WASTED explores a concept that crosses our minds from time to time. What if? Jack believes there is no chance, that everything is the result of a string of events and that even the tiniest departure can change your life. Real life example: My 3rd cousin worked in the World Trade Centre. On the morning of September 11th, nothing went right. Finally as he headed through the door, his shoelace broke. Frustrated, he headed bsck inside and called in sick. It probably saved his life.


1. Post a comment by 11.59 EST on Wednesday to be entered.
2. This contest is open to followers only.
3. This contest is open internationally.
4. To win, provide a personal 'what if'. (I'll give the exaple that's been on my mind recently. On my programme we don't have a lot of say in where we are placed. I chose this prefecture, but 'What if I'd been assigned to a coastal town?' I might have been caught up in the tsunami. It's the tiniest things sometimes...)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Crazy idea and I need YOUR help!

[Edited bits in bold]

I'm compiling a list of


And I need your help.

I'm asking that each of you submit 10 books (by email only) that you think every author should read. They don't have to be fiction. For example, my neighbour read the whole Bible during Lent last year. And he says that everyone should read it because he sees so many more biblical references in Western entertainment now.

Also spread the word. I'd like this list to be representative, meaning I need a decent sample size. I'd prefer at least 1000 respondents, but I'll be happy with 200.

What's in it for you?

First, the obvious. You will be helping to create a list of 100 books (craft, other non-fiction, fiction across all genres) that authors (and hopefully other industry professionals) think that authors should read.

Secondly, a chance to win. I'll be giving a random contributor copies of the first 5 single volumes on the list. (If Nancy Drew comes in at number 1, you can rest assured, I will not be mailing the entire works of Nancy Drew. Even I am not that crazy.

Thirdly, I will be giving away another set of the first 5 single volumes to someone who spreads the word through their blog, their twitter, other social media, or face-to-face interaction at a writer's event. (I'm trusting you guys to be honest about this. Unless of course you want to pay for a shinkansen ticket to Tokyo and a plane ticket from there for me to see you word-of-mouth it.) Please leave a message in the comments.

1. Please send your list of 10 books every writer should read to muchlanguage (at)gmail (dot)com.
2. You don't have to, but I'd love if you included nationality in your email. If you do, I'll use that info to tabulate the number one book for Brits v. Americans vs. Australians, etc. (This hinges on your nationality being represented by at least 5 people.)
3. Please spread the word on twitter, your blog, facebook, in person, etc.
4. Please comment when you spread the word. There is no limit to the number of entries you can receive for spreading the word.
5. I'll accept lists until December 31, 2011 (11.59 pm EST as usual). I have less than 200 respondents, I may extend that.
6. You can win the first 5 books (single volumes) by spreading the word or by entering.
7. I'll compile the list in early January (or a few weeks after I've stopped accepting lists) and draw the 2 winners.
8. I will ship books to any country serviced by or If neither of those companies ships to your country, but you have a mailing address in another country that you can use, you are still eligible.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what this turns up!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Thank you guys for all your concern.

It's been a very emotional time for me, and since today is Monday (well, it's Tuesday here, but Monday was a holiday and we don't have internet at home since the quake...), I'm going to share what's on my mind. Namely lots of emotions.


I have been following the Japanese news (usually with English simul-translation) so I haven't seen the Western Media. But I hear it's a hot fear-mongering mess.

Granted, Japan is a lot smaller than the US, but that does not mean you can see from one side to the next. I live 600 km outside of Tokyo, and that is still close compared to where some of my friends live. I would really appreciate it if someone in the media would point out that outside the tsunami towns (in 3 prefectures) and the radiation possibilities (in about 4 more), the other 40 prefectures are largely unaffected. My friend in Fukuoka (on a different island in the South) felt NOTHING. They watched the quake on tv like everyone else. That's how far away they were.

Honestly, seeing the situation on the ground, and hearing the way the major networks portray it, is making me wonder how much they overblew other disasters.


Thanks to the media-induced hysteria, people keep asking me if I'm coming home. I know they mean well, but I am 450 km away from the nuclear plant, and I'm keeping track of the situation. The Japanese government says this distance is fine. The US Government (despite what the media selectively portrays) says this distance is fine. My neighbour's Radiation Safety Specialist aunt says this distance is fine. So all the people calling me in hysterics because supposedly reputable television stations told them that the whole archipelago is going to fall into the sea- yes, I understand you're concerned, but I am fine.


I live about 100 km inland of some of the places you've seen on tv. (That's just me guessing though.) But I'm right here. I feel like I should be out there doing something. And somehow there doesn't seem to be any way for me to help. I can't find an organisation which wants my assistance and the prefecture has advised not to go out there on our own. I can't donate food because we're affected by the same shortages.


In the midst of how bad things are, I keep thinking of all the ways it could have been worse and all the things I'm thankful for.

I'm glad that the grand majority of my friends have been accounted for.

I'm glad I was sitting right next to my neighbours when it happened, so I knew they were safe.

I'm glad we were with Japanese teachers, so they gave us the information which might have been difficult for us to figure out on our own.

I'm glad it happened in the middle of the night for the Western Hemisphere. I can't imagine how much more freaked out ppl might have been watching it live.

I'm glad that I live in a farming town, so while we have shortages on gas and processed goods, we will never run out of pork, chicken, rice and vegetables.

I'm glad that, even though we were so close to the epicenter, my town's only damage seems to be a drink that fell over in the drink machine display case and an antenna that fell off the municipal offices.

I'm glad that I had a Kindle, because when my cellphone died, and the landlines and power were off, it was my only way of communicating with the outside world. (Still kind of is, since my internet home is off.)


It's weird living through a disaster (again- guess who was on a plane on September 11, 2001). I feel like I should be more affected. I spend half my time moping around worrying about people. Another chunk I spend wishing life would just go back to normal because I'm so stressed. And then I feel guilty because thousands lost their lives and I'm only mildly inconvenienced by the unavailability of toilet paper, feminine products and New Zealand cheese. I want to get back to regular life. But I feel guilty that my life is so regular. When some of my friends are missing, without power and water, living in shelters.

Monday, that's on my mind. Also don't forget to enter to win a copy of WHAT KATY DID. Remember I'll donate for each person that enters.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Katy Did- Review, giveaway, winner, and help Japan

The winner of last week's HERE LIES BRIDGET is...

Abby Stevens!

Congrats Abby! Email me at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com.


In light of what happened here, in Japan, I'll be donating 200 yen (about $2 USD) per entrant, so please spread the word.

So, I've been reading a little differently of late. YA classics and women's fic. The first of the YA classics that I read was WHAT KATY DID.

What I didn't like:

It's an old classic. So it follows a lot of the old norms. It's a bit preachy sometimes, and there is way too much description (especially for non-visual me), and it's way slower than what we're used to.

What I did like:

It's an old classic. There's something about it that makes you kind of feel like you're curled up at a storyteller's feet. And I liked the theme: What Katy Did is a story about being responsible and grown up even when you don't want to. I'm an adult, and I sometimes feel very much like Katy.

The rules:
Because of the special circumstances, you don't need to be a follower to enter today.
This contest is open internationally.
To enter, tell me what's your fave children's classic.
You've got until Wednesday 11.59 as per usual.

Don't forget I'm donating 200 yen per entry. Spread the word.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How you can help Japan

Hi guys,

By now, I'm sure you've heard what happened in Japan. Here are 3 ways you can donate.

1. Red Cross on

2. Authors for Japan. Some amazing, amazing authors have gotten together to auction awesome prizes. Thank you, guys!

3. Enter this week's book giveaway (not up yet- sketchy internet, sorry) and I will donate 200 yen (about $2USD) for every person who enters. Spread the word.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I am safe. I am in Iwate where most of the tsunami occured but I'm way inland. We were without power for a day, but it is back now. I will do a full post when I have internet access. (Updating from my Kindle.) Thank you for your thoughts. I still have afew missing friends in other townws. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Caribbean Context: Race

It's weird that I have a day completely dedicated to exhibiting culture from all over the world, and I come from a Caribbean, and yet I don't think I've ever done a post on Caribbean culture...

Bout time we fixed that.

For a few weeks the YA community has been buzzing about race. Got me to thinking...

What does race mean to me as a Black, Caribbean female?

Let's start with a little demographics.

Ethnic groups

black 93%, white 3.2%, mixed 2.6%, East Indian 1%, other 0.2% (2000 census)

That's how I spent my YA life- in a 93% black community.

I had never had a white teacher. In my life time, the country didn't have a white leader. All my political representatives were black. The bishop of the Anglican Church- the biggest denomination in Barbados- is black. The richest person from my country (Rihanna, I think) is black.

So, the US-UK white majority norm is not my norm.

In fact, I never knew what it meant to be black until I moved to the US for college at 18. White people in white majorities, don't think about what it means to be white. They think about what it means to be blond, or thin, or tall, etc.

Similarly, in Barbados (nicknamed Bim), the Black Condition was not a condition at all.


It's not a derogatory term for a Native American. Redskin is the term we use for black people who are a lot closer to white. In the middle of the realm, there's brownskin. And on the darker end, darkskin. The stats I gave above claim that there are only 2.6% of the people who are of mixed heritage. They've probably limited that to the last 2 or 3 generations, but after hundreds of years of slavery we're pretty much all mixed.

Take me for example, I'm pretty sure I'm down as black. But my great-great-grandmother was white. That doesn't make any difference on a census, but it makes a difference in skin tone. In my grandmother's generation: The oldest sister was dark as night, my grandmother was 'medium-dark', the 3rd sister was light and the 4th could almost pass for white. It was like their mother ran out of melanin as she went along. lol. My great-grandfather, a dark man, used to joke that the first two were his and the last two were hers.

Truthfully, there is sometimes a prejudice towards the lighter side of things. I don't think it's extremely prevalent, but then I fall firmly within the brownskin/redskin range. I wonder how different your answer would be if you asked a darkie. These words may sound horrible to you guys. But they are perfectly normal to my ears. In fact, guys on the road might try to get a girl's attention by shouting, "Reds", "Browning", or "Darkie".

Good Hair

You may have heard of the Chris Rock com-umentary by the same name. Naturally, Africans have a wide a range of hair types-straighter up North, and kinkier down South. Add to this the fact that Barbadian blacks have been mixing with Whites (and a few Indians) for a couple hundred years.

As far as I know, black people are the only race that can have more than one type of hair on their head. I've got 3. The front is soft and straight, grows fast, doesn't stay plait without grease, gel or rubberbands. The middle is soft and curly, grows at zero and really thin. And the back is relatively hard, grows relatively fast, and is the thickest. It's makes hairstyling interesting.

As you may have noticed, I wear my hair natural. It takes work and it's harder, but I think straightened hair is boring. Plus, white people are forever trying to add volume to theirs. And black people are trying to get theirs to lie flat. Is there nobody happy with what they got?

Where the Whites Are

What is the white 3.2% of the population's situation? The whites are pretty much either filthy rich or dirt-poor. Here's my theory- I haven't done any research to substantiate it. Barbados was a sugar plantation island. So each plantation would have one white family that was in charge. Even after slavery was abolished, these families still owned all the land, putting them at an immediate advantage. There were a few other white people on the island back in those days. People in admin roles: merchants, government clerks, etc. So the way I figure it, the former plantation owners are the current car company owners, and the 'poor whites' are those whose ancestors were somebody's assistant.

There are few upper-middle class whites as well. Many of them still live better than the average, but they're not in mega-mansions in the heights and terraces.

H, my best friend for a while in Secondary School was white. She never really hung out with the rich white kids. In the end she grew up and married a black guy that went to school with us. Sometimes if a black person tries to hang with the whites or vice versa, there's bad blood, but I think that's not much the case in Barbados.

If Black and White doesn't divide us...

The biggest divider in Barbados is class. But it's a tiny island, you can't really stay segregrated along any lines. One of my cousin's best friend's is white and rich, and he used to hang out at my house pretty much all the time. I never really think abou tthe fact that he's rich, other than when he turns up in a new Land Rover or Imprezza (which happens quite a bit, since he likes cars).

The rich people on the island are generally pretty frugal. The middle class is always over-extended. And the poor people are always in some pinch, having paid their Direct TV bill ahead of the light bill (we never say electricity).

The Indians:

The other race that makes a mark on the census is Indians. East Indians. How did we get East Indians and no Native Americans? Well, the Caribs- a nomadic, warlike race- killed off the Arawaks who were the first inhabitants of Barbados. The East Indians came over after the abolition of slavery. They came to Trinidad and Guyana as a cheap replacement for the black labour. This is why you'll find that Trinidad and Tobago's population is an even split of black and Indian. A few of those Indians eventually came to Barbados.

The stereotypical thing for an Indian to do is open a shop. They start out selling clothes from the bask of a van. They're famous for taking payments in instalments. So you could get a pair of shoes, a shirt and a pants, and only pay $5 right there and then. If you try to pay somebody in small change or small instalments in Barbados, they might ask you, "You feel I's de coolie man?" Coolie may be a derogotary word most places, but not in Bim, as the salesman will often send children inside with the message, "Tell your mother the coolie man out here." In Bim, the Coolie man specifically means that person driving around wiht clothes in a vehicle.

So there you have it: race in Barbados. People talk a lot about being bothered about the lack of black characters in movies and books. It doesn't really bother me. Because it's all American/UK/Aussie etc characters. So even if they were black, they'd hardly be like me anyhow. Because being black when everybody else is white is way different from being black in the overwhelming majority.

PS, I kind of enjoyed writing this and hope I'll get the opportunity to tell you more of the Caribbean Condition in later posts.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Here Lies Bridget- Review, giveaway, winner

The winner of If I Stay is...


Judit, send me an email at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com and confirm your address.

This week up for grabs, HERE LIES BRIDGET by Paige Harbison.

I discovered this book when I signed up for the
Story Siren Debut Author Challenge

Quick Summary:

"All I could think about was how sorryeveryone would be when they found out." That's what Bridget is thinking as she does fifty-five into a curve.

Bridget is queen of her little world. But when Anna Judge arrives at her high school, suddenly she's not so popular, the teachers don't fall over themselves to excuse her, and her stepmother doesn't let her walk all over her.

My one bad thing:

I mentioned this yesterday, in the setting post. Overselling your setting. Statements like, "We're supposed to enjoy drinking in high school," (not an exact quote) kept popping up. And it drew me out of the story and made me feel like the book was written by a 97 year old. Like I said, when you are a part of a group, you don't keep mentioning it unless you're talking to outsiders, or being purposely patriotic. Think about it, how many times a week do you say the name of your country?

My one good thing:

The mean girl who doesn't know she's mean. The personality theorist in me loves this! Mean ppl are a dime a dozen in teen literature. But they're always carefully calculating how to be evil. Bridget is calculating, that's for sure. But she doesn't realise that the things she does hurt others.

And that made it so real for me. Because there are people who set out to e evil for fun. But more often they're just painting the world with their own brush and don't notice that it's clashing with everyone else's.

Open internationally
Followers only
Answer this question: If you had a friend who was mean to you, what would you do?

PS. Forgive me, I didn't mean to do two books on death in a row. It just happened that way. Looking for a happy book for next week. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All set?

You guys' comments always make me smile. Thanks for the wonderful responses.

Today we're talking setting. For an example of what I think was a perfectly done setting, read Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS.

The perfect setting is relative, and varies from reader to reader and writer to writer. For me, the perfect setting is somewhere between 'just a backdrop' and 'an extra character'. My favourite settings walk a thin line between influencing and staying out of the story.


Setting is like the difference between a black and white movie and technicolor. Some black and white films were remastered to be in colour. It's the same film, but it's different.

A setting should be painted well enough that you see the colour. But it should not be so entangled with the story that it would be impossible to transpose the story to another place or another time.

Not having the setting too intertwined with the story helps to make it more universal. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS takes place in Paris, but it could have happened anywhere. Take a few essentials- Anna being unable to understand the language, meeting a gorgeous boy who can, being afraid of cultural sterotypes- and you could lift ANNA right out of France and put her down in any non-English-speaking country. In fact, you could just as easily put her in an English speaking area with a thick accent or dialect (the Deep South, Yorkshire, parts of Africa).


Even though the story should be transposable, I like a setting that once in a while crosses into plot/character territory. Take HARRY POTTER, for example. There are several times that Harry finds himself in the wrong place at exactly the right time. He hears things he's not supposed to, gets accused of things, discovers Fluffy, trains an army. These things would not be possible if it weren't set in a big confusing castle with moving staircases and secret rooms.

What's the point of setting a book in Japan if there's nothing 'Japanese' in it? This can be something stereotypical, like going to an anime convention; or it can be something only someone living here might think of, like always laughing at the jokes first at comedies in the cinema, since it takes the non-natives longer to the read the joke in the sub-titles.

There are lots of books set in anywhere, USA. And it took me about 20 times watching one of my fave movies to finally hear something that confirmed it's location. There's nothing to say you can't do this, but I'm not a fan.


If your setting comes up ever 34.21 seconds, you may be overusing it. If a novel set in Japan spoke only of the fact that it was in Japan and the differences and similarities to the West, it would read like non-fiction. The closer an author gets to that point, the more he/she risks me getting fed up with the setting. The one exception is if it's a setting that I care about. For example, I might be more tolerant of an over-used Japan setting.

Another danger is mentioning the name of your setting too much. I say "Barbados" now much more than I did when I lived there. When you say schoolschoolschool, or FranceFranceFrance, or TokyoTokyoTokyo, it's like you've got something to prove to somebody. This is an important area to 'show not tell'. Remind us the character is in school with an annoying teacher, in France with macarons, in Tokyo with soba noodles.

Some science fiction, some fantasy, most historicals (and probably lots of other categories I can't call to mind right now) break these rules. For these authors and readers, the novel would not be possible without the setting. If you're writing one of these genres and/or extremely strong settings rock your world, then go for it.

But personally, the characters and the plot are more important to me. I don't think I'd have gotten through all 7 Harry Potters, regardless of the cool spells and creatures, if it wasn't for Harry, Hermione, Ron, Snape, Draco, Dumbledore, Dobby, etc etc.

What about you? How do you like settings? Just a pinch? Or drowning in it? Or somewhere in between?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Idol- Time Travel Tuesday

Apparently it's that time of year again. I say apparently because US and world pop culture is so removed, it might as well be on Mars. Anyhow, thought I'd run you through the last nine years with hits by the season winners. Enjoy!

2002 winner, Kelly Clarkson. BREAKAWAY is a 2004 song which was featured on the Princess Diaries 2 soundtrack. (I missed this entire season being in the military :( )

2003 winnner, Ruben Studdard, The Velvet Teddybear. Here's his cover of I NEED AN ANGEL (2004).

2004 winner, Fantasia Barrino. Her most popular offering was probably WHEN I SEE YOU, 2006. (I remember this season for the crazy upsets with Jennifer Hudson and Latoya London.)

2005 winner, Carrie Underwood sang BEFORE HE CHEATS in 2006. It edges out JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL as her biggest seller. (Can't help feeling like there's a societal comment in there somewhere.)

2006 winner, Taylor Hicks, sang DO I MAKE YOU PROUD in the same year.

2007 winner, Jordin Sparks. Her biggest hit, NO AIR, a duet with Chris Brown was released in 2008.

2008 winner, David Cook, sange TIME OF MY LIFE that same year. (This is the last season I saw, since I moved to Japan in August.)

2009 winner, Kris Allen. His cover of The Script's LIVE LIKE WE'RE DYING charted in 2009.

2010 winner, Lee DeWyze singing on Finals Night, BEAUTIFUL DAY. (Apologies for the volume.)

Do you follow Idol? Remember all the winners? All the upsets?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Any good?

I've got a conference coming up in a few weeks (in the UK!!! So! Psyched!) and I spent the entire day re-reading WIP3.

It's good. It's actually good.

I know I have edits to do. I have to add some setting depth and flesh out some details. And do a line edit or 20. But the plot is solid and the characters fairly rock. There's even like a theme!

Still, I know I'm not done yet.

But it set me to wondering, how do you know?

In the finite sciences, there are answers. This is right. That is wrong. There is one way (or at most, a few) of doing things. In the subjective world, there's no such thing. It's all in your gut.

Does he like me?

Did I do the right thing?

Will this work out for the best?

Is this book good?

It's all guesswork. We can never know for sure. That's the scary thing.

That's the beauty. It could be good. It could be great. It could be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

But you'd never know.

Short and sweet. That's what's on my mind this Monday.

How do you know when you're ready?

Friday, March 4, 2011

IF I STAY, review, giveaway, winner

Firstly, I apologies for being a day late. I was running around like a headless chicken yesterday. And unfortunately, I can't preprogram a post that depends on

The winner of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is....


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

Today, up for grabs, a copy of IF I STAY by Gayle Forman.

Quick summary: Mia and her family are involved in a terrible accident, which claims her parents' lives. She then has to choose whether to stay and live without them, or to go and join them, wherever they are.

The raw truth:

I did not connect with this book. And it really bothered me. Because my Mom was in a band just like Mia's parents, and I identified with a lot of what she mentioned. And because the prose had a certain simple beauty to it. Also, everyone on the blogosphere raves about this book. I WANTED to love this book.

I read IF I STAY at the end of last year, and it has taken this long for me to post about it, because I was trying to figure out what was missing for me. And then it hit me. The fundamental problem is whether to live or die. That's what Mia spends the majority of the book debating. And that's never even a question for me. (Life is hard as a bipolar. If God gave me half a choice, I'd be gone before you could blink. Don't worry I'm not suicidal. Just realistic.)

My one bad:

The present tense. It's hit or miss when you move a book out of the past tense. The present tense, in particular, pulls a reader into the moment. Unfortunately, if it's a moment that you don't want to be in, the present tense has an effect that is the polar opposite of the desired one. It would be like being made to watch years of home videos featuring a family you didn't know.

However, if this is a question that you'd puzzle over, then you'll probably love the present tense in this book.

My one good:

The relationship between Adam and Mia. I get really tired of YA pretending that relationships are all roses and lollipops. Adam and Mia didn't even feel like teens in their relationship. And that makes sense, because of who Mia is- she's applied to Juilliard, so that means when other people her age are out getting drunk, she's practicing the cello with music students or her tutor.

IF I STAY is well-written and thought-provoking. I think it would be an asset to anyone who wonders about the line between life and death.


First week of the month, so this is open to everybody.
It's international.
To win, tell me: Would you stay if you'd already lost your family/friends?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Impossible is...

Remember, you've got til 11.49 EST to enter to win Matthew Quick's SORTA LIKE A ROCKSTAR.

There are 4 Westerner foreigners in my town. Of 15,000 people. I figure these numbers are probably on par with every other non-above 300,000 population city or town in Japan. Anywhere between 1 and 10 foreigners.

The odds are so scarce that Japanese people are always shocked when they see us for the first time. Or even if they see us somewhere they didn't expect to find us- like last month when we turned up at the Chinese New Year celebrations. The odds of a Japanese small-town resident running into a foreigner who doesn't live there are probably about the same as you running into Will Smith in a supermarket in France. It could happen, but it's so unlikely it would never cross your mind.

This morning it was snowing and I was late. So I called a cab. Weirdly, I forget my cellphone wasn't working, and I couldn't hear anything, but the receptionist recognised my number and sent a cab to my address- just so you understand how small my town is. lol.

The taxi driver was a guy I'd never seen. A regular cabbie was in the passenger seat. I told him the name of the school I was headed to- the biggest in town. The other taxi driver directed him. There's no way you've been here longer than a minute and don't know where my Junior High is. So I asked him if he was new. He was. In fact, it was his first day, and I was his first fare.

4 out of 15,000 people are foreigners. FOUR!!!

I know that guy didn't ever consider the possibility that the person who told him "Welcome to our town!" would be a foreigner. Because the odds were against it. Way, way against it. But it happened.

The odds are against you writing a story as widely loved as J.K. Rowling. The odds are against you becoming as much a household name as Stephen King. The odds are against you building characters that will cause new words to be coined- SPARKLEPIRE!!! The odds are against you causing a new/forgotten genre to take flight. Against getting a big advance. Against you selling a book. Against you getting an agent.

But that one person who beat out millions of others to win the lottery, they don't care about the odds. It happened. All the matters is that it happened.

4 out of 15,000. How you like dem odds?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weight Loss and Writing

It's Monday, which means it's time for a trip into the random: Claire's mind.

Doo doo doo (eerie Twilight Zone music).

Today I'm sharing some similarities between Weight loss and Writing, other than the fact that they both start with 'W'.

1. Gains must outweigh losses

With anything that requires a long commitment, self-deprivation, tolerance, or a large input, the question comes up.

Is it worth it?

Would you rather be fit than be able to sleep in? Than be able to spend the money you currently use for gym membership? Than spend an extra hour watching tv?

Writers make big sacrifices on the journey. We miss out on having great social lives. We spend a little less time with our families than we'd like. We shell out precious income on craft books, workshops, and conferences. Because in our minds, it's worth the possibility that some day we'll be published.

I've heard some who've said that you won't get very far if you're only in it for the money. Or the fame. Or etc, etc. I disagree. So long as the reasons continue to outweigh the sacrifices, you'll keep moving forward. If you realize that only one in thousands is a millionaire, and you remain convinced you'll be that one, then you're fine.

You don't need to justify yourself either. Maybe others tell you that you shouldn't get in shape for your boyfriend, you should do it for you. Maybe you shouldn't. But in the end, it doesn't matter, because your reasons only need to be good enough for you.

2. Everyone has their own path to follow

There are a million and one diet and workout ads. And half of them seem to start like this: 'Have you tried every diet/exercise program and failed? Then this is the program for you!'

There are lots of reasons people 'fail' to get in shape and many of them have nothing to do with the program itself. One of the reasons diets and workout programs fail is because they're not right for the person following them.

If you ran 10 miles every day, you would lose weight. Guaranteed. This will definitely work! Until you quit. Because running 10 miles every day was not your thing.

In writing, we have to find the right fit. Some people prefer to write humour. But your jokes don't come off on paper. Some people prefer to jump right into a story. But without an outline, your stories meander. Some people write late at night. But late nights are full of distractions for you: late night tv, exhaustion, thoughts about the day.

It doesn't matter if you run ten miles a day. If you work out 20 minutes each day or an hour 3 times a week. The important thng is to find what works for you and will take you to your objective.

3. Everyone's an expert

You tell your friends you're on a weight-loss path. Everyone jumps in with advice. Jackie tells you the So You Think You Can Dance workout really worked for her. Tyrone tells you how the Grapefruit diet took inches off his waist. You appreciate their well-meaning words and put a little research into the methods they've mentioned. You might even try them.

Then there's that person. The one who comes up to you in the lunch room and tells you you're doing it wrong. They've never played a sport. They've never been overweight. They go to the gym twice a month and put in half a workout. But they READ somewhere that this is the way to lose weight. It's simple they say, you just have to consume less calories than you burn. What's wrong with you? Why is it taking you so long to lose this weight? They don't actually say that last bit, but they might as well, considering how you feel when they're done.

We all love to hear stories from published and pre-published authors about their paths. Heck, we might even enjoy listening to the ramblings of an aspiring author once in a while. (I'm looking at you!!! Awesome, awesome people, you!!! Every last one of you.) But the 2nd cousin who read Stephen King's memoir/craft book and swears she knows what you should be doing? And the guy in the lunch room who heard how easy it is to self-publish on Amazon? Thanks, but no thanks.

I appreciate that they probably mean well, but if I tried to give an auditor advice on how to make a balance sheet, or told a surgeon where to make an incision,... Well, it wouldn't end well, would it?

4. Similar input does not guarantee similar results.

This reminds me of a story my secondary school English teacher told. She was pregnant at the same time as another girl from the area. My teacher was in her 30's giving birth to her third child. The girl was 15 and it was her first. My teacher went into labour for 2 days. The girl came into hospital, 'dropped out the child' and left before my teacher.

There always that person. Goes to the gym with you. Starts out around the same shape as you. Does the same workouts. 4 months later, he or she has turned into a Kardashian or Brad Pitt, and you're more Toni Colette or Colin Firth.

You start writing at the same time as someone. You go through the same number of revisions/edits. You write in the same genre. That other person gets a 3 book half mil deal. You sell one book for low five figures.

Remember two things:

Where the grass is greener, the water bill is higher. Getting the mega-advance also means the mega-pressure. And if things don't work out, that person fails pretty spectacularly. With such a debt incurred, it might even destroy their hope of a career in the field. On the other hand, earning out 5 figures is do-able. And even if you don't, the loss is small enough that it probably won't have far-reaching consequences.

Colin Firth is Colin Firth. Okay, so he's not the sexiest, buffest, yummiest thing in Hollywood. He's certainly no Brad Pitt. But he's Colin Firth. He's FRIKKIN COLIN FIRTH. There are others on the path who'd be happy for a 5 figure deal. Heck, there are some of us who'd settle for 3 figures, if it would get our name and our work out there. Whatever you get, there's a lot of people who wish they had it that good.

5. You have to put in a stack of work before you see results.

I've been working out since I returned to my Japanese house- January 10th. Five days a week and recently, on the 30 Day Shred, every day. The changes are measurable. The measuring tape tells me how many inches. The scale tells me how many kilos (yeah, Japan is metric- who knew?) There is clearly a (large) space in the waistband of my jeans, but without the help of clothes or measurements, noone could tell anything's changed.

I'm doing this purely for myself. Still I can't wait for the day that I go somewhere and someone comes up to me and says, 'Dang, Claire. Did you lose weight?' Of course, I'll be all modest. 'Yeah, a couple pounds.' Like 50.

We put hours and hours into our stories. And early on, we have nothing to show. We get a harsh critique or an agent rejection and it feels like nothing has changed. But a book deal is not the only measurement. Pull out the first draft of your first MS. Be happy that there are fewer red marks on your critiqued MS. Notice that you've moved from form rejections to personalised suggestions. There are so many steps: first drafts and waiting and edits and critiques and waiting and more edits and queries and waiting and partials and fulls and waiting and book deal and waiting.

But the day will come when people will introduce you and titles will follow your name.

It's Monday. (In California at least.) That's what's on my mind.