Thursday, September 29, 2011

Giveaway 35

Remember how I said I wasn't giving away books in September?

Well, Oops, I did it again.

Blame Beth Revis, author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. She said that Michelle Hodkin's THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER was unputdownable. Which made me curious, because books are rarely unputdownable when people say they are. And life is hectic right now, I just didn't have time to read the whole back. So I decided to check out a few chapters.

2.15 am, meet Claire. Claire, 2.15.

I will tell you the truth. I started following Michelle's blog a long time ago. Ether shortly before or shortly after her book deal was announced. And when the summary of MARA became available, it didn't do much for me.

It was so vague.

From Michelle's Blog:

Mara Dyer believes life can't get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed.

There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.

She's wrong.

Creepy, but vague.

And then, I heard her editor talk about it, and it was still creepy, but less vague, and I wanted to read it. But not in a "give it to us NOW, your horrible Hobbitses. We wants it it NOW" sort of way.

And then release day came, and Beth started gushing. And since the Kindle fairies had already deposited my pre-order (I read all new releases by bloggers I follow), I picked it up.


I understand now why summaries are vague. It's hard to explain MARA without telling the whole story.

There are elements of mystery, romance, and paranormal. And don't worry if you're not a fan of "teen paranormal romance". It's not that kind of book. It's more in the sense of "Holy Crap, my jewelry box just spoke to me in the voice of my dead grandmother! Time to up the meds, Doc!"

There's a creepy edge to the entire book. Something happened with Mara and her friends. They died, she didn't. And from that moment, things never quite add up. Her Mom, a psychiatrist, is convinced it's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But there's always a vibe that it could be more.

Also, the ending is a doozie. Beth warned that I wouldn't see it coming. So I was extra vigilant. Still blindsided.

And I loved the pop culture references to The Eye of Sauron and Gryffindor, etc.

I can't wait for the next book.

And I couldn't NOT give it away.

Tell me: What paranormal thing/creature/experience would(or does) creep you out the most in your real life?
Open internationally, followers only.
Open until Wednesday 11.59 pm EST.

(PS, My bloggiversary's coming up. Get ready for INSANITY!)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dating Yourself

Back when I talked about my YA Pet Peeves, one of the things I mentioned was the fact that so many MCs have fave bands and books from a million years ago. I theorised that they did this either to pay homage to their fave bands and people, or to avoid dating themselves. It seems that back in August I promised a post on dating your work. It also seems I didn't write that post. But looky-look! I'm here now! Yay me!


People jump through all sorts of hoops not to date their work, but I can't help wondering how much it really matters. When is the last time you bought a book that was more than 5 years old, but less than 20? What percentage of your recent book purchases were published between 1991 and 2006? I've read 79 books this year, 2 were fiction published in that period. One was THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS by John Connolly, the other THE BAD BEGINNING by Lemony Snicket. 2% of my reading this year was fiction between 5 and 20 years old.

Is this trend of leaning towards "the book for all times" hurting literature for future generations? Literature from the 1800's is a snapshot of what it was like to live at that time. But there are so many books today with no mention of current artists, tv shows, pasttimes, etc. If they analyse YA contemporary works 100 years from now, what will it say about today's teens? They all loved Wuthering Heights and The Clash?


I've heard a few arguments about the number of teens who DO happen to love The Beatles or Led Zeppelin or Patti LaBelle or Journey. There are two things to be careful of when making that argument.

I can think of more books where the teen's favourite book/artist etc, is from before my time, than books where the teen's favourite artist is current. I might be wrong, but I don't feel like that's representative of the real situation. I'm not saying that sort of teen doesn't exist. I'm saying that teen probably doesn't exist in anywhere near the proportions we see in YA.

If something is going to be overwhelmingly present in YA, it should at least have the decency to also be overwhelmingly present in real life. Like paranormal romance, where a girl falls for an 'unattainable' guy, but attains him anyway. Or the love triangle where a girl has an entire trilogy to debate between two guys. These trends are both annoying, especially when they're not done well, which is way too often. But even if I hate them, I know that the majority of teen girls probably do have a crush on someone they consider unattainable. And they probably do dream of two amazing guys fighting over them.

And that brings me to the second point, stuff gets old. If 50% of the YA contemp books that come out next year have MCs who love Justin Beiber, that will be annoying. Despite the fact that it's quite possible that 50% (or very much more) of REAL teen girls love JB.

So, I don't think reality is a good enough excuse in this case, but that's just my humble opinion, based on the 2 points I gave. Also, I'm not American/British, etc, so it is quite possible that in an American JHS/SHS or British secondary class of 15 girls, there are 10 who love really old bands and books. I've only got widespread experience with Barbadian and Japanese teens, and it's quite possible their norm of liking contemporary stuff is not the norm in other places.

If, however, you still want to avoid dating your novel, here are a few quick tips for doing so.


If I mention Bug-a-boo, we're talking Destiny's Child, circa 1998. But if I say Beyonce I could be anywhere in a 15 year range.


Another consideration is to use an established artist who's cracked the top 10 more than a few times. If you use an artist who's only got one hit song, you're never sure they won't be a 1 hit wonder.


If you're really afraid of your work being dated, you can make stuff up. Invent a band, or a book, or a social networking site.


If you're afraid that specificity will date you, stay as vague as possible. One warning about being vague though, it has to fit the voice/character. No teen would say "I logged on to a social networking site, to update my status." They'll say Facebook or Twitter or Blogger. A teen wouldn't say, "We jammed to the latest hot up-and-coming emo band." Not unless they hated or were indifferent about emo. Or there were too many emo bands to keep track of. (And if that's the case, why not just fake it?)


When I was born, the World Wide Web did not yet have any applications to the public. Since then, the internet has rolled through several things that were the "hotspot" of communication.

When I was a kid, it was email. I didn't get an email address until I was 16, back in 1998. But it was still kind of pointless because most of my friends didn't have one, and the phone was still a more common way to chat. I think Geocities was also the 'ish' back then.

In 99'ish, I made the transition to Instant Messenger (AIM, Yahoo, MSN). Then there was social networking, hi5, myspace.

2007ish, I finally dragged myself onto Facebook. And I've only joined Twitter this year.

In that same time period, we've moved from two-way pagers to cell-phones to smart phones.

Ditto for slang. If you think slang changes fast in your corner of the world, you want nothing with the Caribbean. We use BOTH British and American slang. And we adapt slang from reggae and calypso songs. And then there are words that just pop up everywhere. When I was a teen, everything was "sick". You could dress sick. You could dance sick. You could get on (act) sick. The new word these days in Barbados, is "jones". It's a verb. Hell if I know what it means- lol - but every now and again I'll again I'll see on facebook, "We was jonesing all day yesterday."

Technology and slang are both liable to change in a blink. But I think it's unrealistic to avoid technology in this day and age, and I think that books with no slang at all (especially in YA) are stilted.

So how do you insert them in a way that won't make your novel completely unreadable by next year?

Leave out the nitty gritty. Don't talk about the interfaces, the concepts stay mostly the same. So if facebook flies off into the sunset on the back of a pteradactyl, noone's going to freak out that your MC used facebook to say something. On the other hand, if you get into description minute details of whatever technology's going on, then it'll draw attention to the technology. Ignore this, if it's your aim to draw attention.

Sprinkle it in. Pick a few things, and spread them throughout the book. You know how weird it is reading Ye Olde English, if you try to include every piece of slang, so that your dialogue is EXACTLY like it would be in real life, then it will probably be fairly indecipherable or sound ridiculous in a few years time. Remember when rappers did that "-izzle" thing, and everybody was, "in the hizzle fo' shizzle my nizzle?" Man, I can't even type that without laughing.

How do you feel about dating yourself? Does it matter to you? If it does, how do you avoid it?

PS, Every time I write "dating yourself" I keep remembering that time Mr. Bean took himself out to dinner. lol.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How I interview

Some amazing authors have passed through and sat on the virtual couches here at Points of Claire-ification. I've even had an agent and a publisher stop by and answer my questions. As a sempai blogger (ie, one who's been around longer than some others), I'd like to share my interview process. Now, I'm not saying that anybody has to do it this way. This is just how I do it.

'Hot' contacts

In this case, the word 'cold' refers to doing something with little or no prior preparation. For example, if I stuck a script in your hand, and gave you a minute to read through a page, and then told you to read for the part, that would be a cold reading. You haven't had time to familiarise yourself with the script or get inside the character's head.

I've never heard the word 'hot' used in this context before, but I'm linguist. I make shiz up. By my logic, a 'hot' anything then, is where you've done a decent amount of prior work.

The majority of my interviewees are bloggy-friends. People whose blogs I read every day, and usually comment on. I feel like I know them, and they, at a bare minimum remember my name. 'Hot' contacts are easier, because a writer's time is limited, and they are more likely to grant an interview to someone they 'know.'

Cold contacts

I don't do cold contacts very often. My showcasing books and authors is a very personal thing. If I'm following a blog from back before an author even sells a book, I feel connected (in a totally non-stalkerish way) to that author. And I want to do everything to let the world know they've written something, and to go buy it. Whether or not it's something I'd normally read. Case in point, the hilarious Tawna Fenske and MAKING WAVES.

So I don't make cold contacts willy-nilly.

When do I make cold contacts? If I read a book, and I feel like it's something I've never seen before (FIRELIGHT by Sophie Jordan). Or something I identify strongly with (FAIRY TALE FAIL by Mina Esguerra) . Or it's ouside what I normally read, and I'm shocked to find I like it (CASSASTAR by Alex J. Cavanaugh). Or it totally shakes my foundations so hard (SORTA LIKE A ROCKSTAR by Matthew Quick). And I have to share it.

How I contact

For hot contacts, I've used everything from private messages on Twitter to emails to leaving comments on blogs. If I'm used to bantering with the author on Twitter on their blog, than those routes are fine. If not, I write an email, reminding them who I am, giving them blog stats, and asking them if they'd like to do an interview/giveaway.

For cold contacts, it's got to be a letter. So far, I've only used email, but I'm not opposed to hard copy. Like the cold contact, I give blog stats, and ask if they're interested in an interview/giveaway. And of course, I preface that with an introduction.

I try to ask authors at least a month ahead of when I'd hope to publish an interview. Authors are busy people.

What I ask

One of the reasons I really prefer to contact people I know, is that I like personalising interviews. Like zombie dogs for Carrie Harris, the jam-packed lifestyle of Holly Thompson, historical research for Dianne K. Salerni, HBMs (Hot British Males) for Stephanie Perkins.

I try to acheive a similar personalisation for cold contacts too. Which means cold contacts are a lot of work. Reading their blogs and websites. Looking at the books they've written, and sypnopses, and reviews.

This also means reading the author's books where there are available. Because I like to ask specific (non-spoilery) questions about the book.

Since this blog's audience is mainly aspiring authors, I ask about publication journey, agent, choice to self-pub, etc.

I firmly believe that interviews shouldn't be transposable. I shouldn't be able to use my template for Lisa Descrochers to interview Amy Holder.

I like to think I ask the questions you'd ask if you could talk to the author directly. If there's something that I haven't been asking, but you'd really like to know, then tell me. Because that's the point of the interview: to introduce my readers to an author/book I adore. Many times, I already know the answers (I've been stalking - er - following some of these people for years), so it's definitely not for my benefit.

The mutual benefits of interviews

So you know that you know the HOW, let me just spend a minute telling you WHY.

Firstly, the benefits to authors. I interview authors because I absolutely love them/their work, and I want to spread the word. So the author's getting a free advertisement. Also, I always do a giveaway with an interview, so the author is getting a sale. In an ideal world, the winner of that book is also talking about it to others, and selling more books.

Obviously there's also benefits for me. I think having authors, agents and publishers appear here raises the quality of my blog. I might still be a complete nutmonger, but I'm a nutmonger who spoke to Beth Revis. I think giveaways generate excitement, especially since I'm the only blogger I know who guarantees that if there's a way to ship to your country, from either Amazon or Book Depository, you're elegible to win. (Caveat being unless the writer or their publisher is doing the shipping.)

Any other questions about interviewing? I've done around 15 interviews for this blog, and while that doesn't make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I can tell you a thing or two.

Sometimes I wanna go home

Last week's school trip was A for Awesome-frikking-sauce! Despite the hilarious episode of walking 200 m to from the restaurant to the theater through a TYPHOON, and the school nurse almost blowing in the bay, and me and a hotel staff member having to save her, and her freaking out and not wanting to go outside ever again, and her holding me arm in a death grip while we finally made our way to the theater. lol. Good times!

Lion King musical was fab! And it occurred to me mid-musical that I've never been to a musical in English, unless I was working in it. For some strange reason, I've only seen musicals in Japanese. I need to go to Broadway. (And to think I lived in Connecticut for 2 years - how did I NOT go to Broadway?)

And the next day we went to Tokyo Disney. The highlight for me was Mickey's Philharmagic. But I love fairy tales, so just breathing Disney air turns my brain to mush. Then I realised there are only 4 Disney Lands in the world, and I've been to the 2 in Asia, the 2 Westerners hardly get to see... In my strange twisted brain, that means I HAVE to go to the other 2.

But I digress.

While the school trip was fun, there were several times I made mistakes that made me feel very aware of the fact that I wasn't Japanese.

First off, the pre-departure meeting at school started at 7.40 am. Actual departure was at 7.50. I figured I'd aim for being 10 minutes early not to stress myself. At 7.26, I got a call from one of the other teachers.

T: Where are you?
C: On my way, by the station.

I thought nothing of it, and just continued on my merry way to school. When I got to school at 7.32, the Vice Principal RIPPED ME A NEW ONE.

VP: You are late! You need to be here at least 10 minutes before so as not to cause people stress. Today is a special day. You can't be late today.....

Then on the first morning in the hotel in Tokyo, I was determined not to be late, so at 7 am, I was at the restaurant door for breakfast. None of the other teachers were there, so I gave the restaurant dude my breakfast ticket, and headed over to the buffet.

I was halfway through my breakfast when the principal walked in. The Maitre D' pointed him to a table with a reserved sign on it. Soon after two more teachers joined him, and they all just sat there waiting for the others. I felt like a complete cow.

Noone had said anything about all of us eating together or waiting for the rest to turn up. But that was the Japanese thing to do. In fact, in both cases I'd screwed myself over by thinking like a Westerner and not like a Japanese.

You see Westerners think for themselves. When I thought about what time to go to school, I thought about what time would get me there without ME worrying. When the Vice Principal ate me alive, he was talking about what time would get me there without THE GROUP worrying.

And it's not just that. My Vice Principal is a lot more vocal than Average Japanese Dude. He (and my old lady neighbour) will tell you if you're wrong, but most people won't. I have no idea what's expected here half the time. For all I know, I'm committing major faux pas, all day every day, and noone is telling me.

Sometimes it feels like it would just be so nice to go home.

Home where I know what is right and wrong. Home where I know what is good and bad. What is acceptable. What is late. What is expected. Home where I can read the newspaper. Where I can understand everything on tv. Where I can read signs. Where the bookstore has mostly books in a language I can read without a dictionary. Where I can participate in poetry slams.

I love it here but sometimes I wanna go home.

It's Monday (in the West, at least), and that's what's on my mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Introducing Cover Drive

A little over a year ago, 4 teens from my home island, Barbados created a band. They called it Cover Drive. "Cover Drive" is a type of hit in the game of cricket. Cricket looks a bit like baseball, only the bat is flat, and held downwards. Cover Drive became known for their covers of popular songs in their "Fedora Sessions"

The first Fedora Session

A cover of Kesha's Tik Tok

Bruno Mars The Lazy Song

Wotless by Kes (from Trindad and Tobago)

And, of course, being Bajan, they had to cover Rihanna. Rude Boy.

All that talent couldn't stay undiscovered for long. They were contacted by Sony after their FIRST youtube upload. While they were in talks with Sony, they were also contacted by Polydor, a UK division of Universal Music. They chose to go with Polydor, because they wanted to stay true to their Barbadian roots, and they felt that might not happen in the US.

This is their first single, LICK YA DOWN. It debuted at no. 9 in the UK.

I'm so proud to be Bajan. Rihanna, Shontelle, Livvi Franc, Hal Linton, and now Cover Drive. And only 166 square miles.

Looking forward to big things from these guys.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sorry this isn't a real post - Tokyo

I meant to write a real post today- although I've forgotten what about- but it didn't happen for two reasons.

Firstly, I'm in Tokyo and I've travelled with my Japanese netbook. The keyboard is pain to type on, and the layout is in Japanese, which is fine until I try to press a symbol key. Please forive any strange spellings and punctuations.

Secondly, I'm on the school trip and the days are seriously long. It's almost midnight and I jst got in. (Kiddies went to sleep at 10 though.)

So, in lieu of actual post, I'm going to give you a round-up of my day.

The students split into groups today to wander around Tokyo/tour places/ do shopping. Most of the teachers had the day free. I'd have just lounged in my room- it's Tokyo, not Timbuktu. I think I've been here more than I've been to NYC- about 20 times,but who's counting?

Now all of this would have been fine, had it not been for the typhoon. Seeing as the other teachers seemed hellbent on me actually doing something, I wondered off to Shinjuku. I know that area really well, because it's where the newbies stay when they come in.

When I was leavng the hotel, I forgot to ask where the trrain station was. I hate looking lost more than I hate being lost. (Yes, I'm a man in girl's skin.) So I refused to turn back and ask where the station was. I just picked a direction and started walking. After about 10 minutes, I gave up and went into a convenience store.

Me: excuse me, where's the nearest train station.
Attendant: Next door.

Lo, and behold, there's a train sign not 50m from the convenience store exit. I swear they put it up while I was in the store!

I went into the subway. Figured out which line it was. Figured out which colour was the right line on the map. And then promptly read the wrong line. Went down to the platform. Got on a train, all the while wondering why it didn't say the station I thought it should. Got to the end of the line. Wondered where the heck I was. Only to hear'...departing for Shinjuku from track...'

Essentially, I got to Shinjuku purely by accident.

Bought a movie ticket for the only movie I hadn't already seen that I might like watching: Green Lantern. In an evil twist of fate, it was actually in English! I don't think i've ever seen a movie in English here. I watched the last two Harry Potters in Japanese. The Twilights in Japanese. Princess and the Frog in Japanese. Cars 2 in Japanese. Kung Fu Panda 2 in Japanese. And I go to a movie I'm lukewarm about and it's in English. Go frikking figure.

I had an hour and a half to kill before the movie so I nipped across the street to the bookstore. This is why I love Shinjuku. Huge cinema directly across the road from the biggest Japanese bookstore, which also boasts an English section. The only ting that would make it better is an anime parade down the road that seperates them :)

By the time the movie was over, the typhoon was starting up. I grabbed a Subway sandwich and then attempted to take the subway home. Only problem: I have no idea how I got to Shinjuku. As none of the lines looked familiar, I decided to use a different line, that would stop at a station almost as close to my hotel. But when I got there, I had no idea how to get back to the hotel.

I peeped at a map, but all Japanese maps suck, so I just kind of guesstimated. I suppose a random perk is that I found HOOTERS. I need to go there sometime, because the Japanese are notorious for NOT having hooters, so I ned to see the waitresses. :)

The typhoon was going at a good clip by now, and on the 15 minute walk to the hotel, I succeeded in semi-destroying my umbrella, and soaking myself from the waist down.

An hour later, after a near futile attempt at drying my skirt, we loaded into buses to go to dinner and the Lion King.On the way, we amused ourselves watching people get blown down the street. And we marvelled each time an umbrella met an untimely death. After a while, people stopped trying to use umbrellas. You were getting soaked anyway, and the umbrellas were just getting broken.

We passed the theater first. The theater and the restaurant hotel are literally back to back. It took us two seconds from the bus to the hotel door, but that was enough to be almost-drenched. We had dinner in a high-end restaurant. Japan has the dubious distinction of being one of few places where hamburger could be served as high-end.

Afterwards we walked around the corner to Lion King. The school nurse and I went last. One minute she's next to me, the next she's blowing towards Tokyo Bay with me and a hotel staff member chasing her down. We had to drag her back into the hotel and wait until the wind died down a little. Then I had to use my immense powers of Japanese persuasion to convince her out the door. (You'd be scared too, if you almost blew all the way to Australia.)

Lion King was awesome! It made me re-decide that I need to see something on Broadway. They had this ridiculous rule about taking pictures- I don't mean during the show, I get that- but even before the show and at intermission. Sigh.

When we came out, the typhoon was all over, and it was back to the hotel, put the kiddies to beddie-bye, and teachers' de-brief. All in, great day.

Off to rest up. Tomorrow is Tokyo Disney!

(In case you wonder about the typhoon, I don't think work is ever cancelled for them, although school might be - teachers still have to go though. I'm not sure, because that's one perk of the frozen North. In more than 3 years, we've only had one anywhere near.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beachbody on Writing: Succeed

Beachbody motto.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've talked about the first two words in the motto: DECIDE and COMMIT. Today I'm going to talk about the final concept.


What is it?
Success is not a universal definition. It is different things to different people. Back in school days, success was a passing grade for some people and an A+ for others. In professions, the definitions can vary even more widely. What makes a successful lawyer? For some people it's assets: house and car, for others it's prestige: partner in the biggest firm in the region, for others it's big name cases or track record or always having more demand than you can respond to.

What makes a succesful writer? There are so many facets of writing success and I can't think of a single writer who has it all. A writer who is popular with kids and adults, literary readers and commercial readers, has produced dozens of books, gets 6 figure advances, is always requested for school visits, does an interview with a talk show King/Queen twice a year, wins awards, speaks at conferences, entertains, educates, persuades, whose books will be/ are read a hundred years after publication, whose name everyone in the world/Eastern Hemisphere/ Western Hemisphere/the Americas/Europe/and so on knows, whose books are all made into movies etc. Can you think of a writer who has all that?

I can't.

You have to define your own success. What is your ultimate goal? Better yet, make a ranked list. Is the most important thing an award decided by a 10-person committee, or the popular vote decided by sales? Will it mean the world to you to know your book is translated into 17 languages. And more importantly, if these things don't happen, will it imply failure?

It's easy to always be chasing something in the writing world. There's always some milestone you haven'treached. And if you aren't careful, you'll never be satisfied.

You'll never succeed.

It's not an equation
When my brain first started formulating these posts, it zoomed in on DECIDE and COMMIT. The motto was pretty self-explanatory on the SUCCEED part. You decide, you commit, you succeed. But that's only true in the widest of parameters.
You decide to get fitter. You commit to getting fitter. You succeed in getting fitter.


But just because you decide to have a Halle Berry body, and you commit to having a Halle Berry body, it doesn't mean you're going to have a Halle Berry body.
If your decision is that specific, bear in mind that there's going to be a lot of hard work in there. And there may be external factors that make it impossible. If the bones in your calves are bigger than Halle Berry's thighs, no amount of exercise is going to change that.

It's the same with writing. If you decide you're a writer and your sit your butt in your special chair at your special desk and spend an hour every day but Sundays clacking away on your dedicated laptop, it does not necessarily mean you'll see the success you want to. If you decide to write a book and you commit to writing a book, you'll succeed in writing a book. Getting an agent and a publisher is subjective, committing to them as goals holds no guarantees.

It takes time
When you succeed at what you're going for then the formula has worked. You decided and committed, therefore you succeeded. You can't un-succeed from that point. Conversely, if you decide, and you commit, and you don't succeed, the formula hasn't failed you. It just hasn't worked YET.

There are a million and one stories about people who didn't succeed immediately. There are those who submitted for 20 years before they got a bite. Some were picked up on their 16th manuscript. Some manuscripts were rejected 50 times, before landing a deal. The end result in all of these is the same. Success.

I guess the only thing I can say here is that when you're on your 49th rejection, you just ask yourself, is the possibility of success worth this commitment, even in the face of all the failure?

If the answer is yes, you keep going.

You're not guaranteed to get what you want. You're never guaranteed success. If you were, would it even matter? But what you are guaranteed, is that if you stop committing, and give up, then you CAN'T succeed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Relativity of Life

This week is made of awesome! Today is a bank holiday. Tomorrow to Thursday, I'm on the Junior High School trip, and Friday is another holiday. (Oh, and October 10 is also a holiday. 3 long weekends in one pay period? Welcome to Japan.)

Some friends of my Jamaican friend in a neighbouring town came up for the weekend and I hung out with them. We had an absolute blast. There was one thing that kind of bugged me though. They said I didn't sound like a Bajan (Barbadian).

I wasn't bothered by the fact that they said that, but by the fact that it's true. My accent is a bit like water. In the absence of other matter, water doesn't have a colour. But put it near another substance, and you'll be able to see that colour through or reflected in the water. My voice is pretty close to a neutral accent. And I switch accents according to what I'm saying and who I'm saying it to. If I spend a day in the company of someone with a strong accent, I'll pick it up.

So for most of the weekend, I went between the neutral accent, and a Jamaican one. Once they even told me I sounded Trinidadian. And I felt bad, because I love Barbados, and I rep it every time I can, but my accent disappears the minute I talk to someone from somewhere else.

Saturday night, we went to dinner at Mameshichitei (lit. 7 bean restaurant) and the owner, Mama-san, treated us to a Japanese-Western feast. The visiting Jamaicans have only been here 2 months, and the Canadian and my Jamaican friend have been here a year, but my Japanese is better than the rest of the group. As I conversed with Mama-san, the guy sitting next to me kept marvelling at my fluency. (My Japanese isn't really all that good. It's just that you tend to have the same sort of conversation when you socialise, and after 3 years, I've gotten really good at that conversation.)

But one thing he said stuck with me.

"You sound just like a Japanese."

And I do. People tell me this all the time. Foreigners who have better Japanese than I do, say they wish they could get the accent down like I do. Plus, I actually make a game out of talking to people when they're not looking at me, and then watching the shock as they realise I'm not Japanese.

My muted, malleable accent applies to foreign languages. When I was in Colombia, the Colombians all thought I was from San Andres, an island off the coast. French people think I'm from Martinique. Martiniquans think I'm from Quebec. It never seems to occur to Spanish and French speakers that I didn't grow up speaking the language. If it weren't so highly unlikely for me to be a Black Japanese, the same thing might happen here, until I got past the depth of conversation I'm comfortable with.

And all of this is because my ears pick up on subtleties and my mouth translates them in a way that other people don't seem to do. And all this happens naturally.

In one case, it's maybe a bad thing. On the other hand, it's one of the things that facilitates me easily transitioning back and forth between 5 languages. Sometimes, the very same things that are a source of pain, discomfort, shame, etc are also what bring our greatest joys, and make our acheivements possible. Good and bad don't exist in a vaccum.

Life is relative.

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

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sources of motivation

First and foremost, I'd like to ask you guys if there's anything you'd like to see here on Points of Claire-ification (besides the re-instatement of giveaways, of course). I'd really like to be able to give you guys what you need/want. So if there's something I'm doing that you'd like to see more of, let me know. Or if there's something I'm not doing that you'd like to see, let me know that too. Also, god is nothing without bad, so if there's something grating on your nerves, holla. You can answer in the comments or email me at muchlanguage (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks! Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, except that it's totally not scheduled, but meh...

We all have our reasons for doing the things we do. And for things that are particularly difficult or that take a long time, we need to find motivators to keep us from throwing the towel in with the bathwater when the going gets tough. lol.

Here are some of the things that motivate me when it comes to writing:

Being friends with stars:

Call me weird, but I have this thing about being friends with famous people. Oh, I love meeting them, but anybody can do that. And I've met oodles of famous people now. The novelty has mostly worn off. (Unless it's Johnny Depp. Or Orlando Bloom. All bets are off for pirates.)

But I'd really like to be friends with the amazing people whose books I read. I imagine chitchatting with Jay Asher about how his son's doing, calling up Kody Keplinger to ask how she's liking the big city, having a laugh over a croissant with Louise Rennison when I'm in the UK. And when I've got booksies under my belt, then I might just stand a chance at doing some of those things.

(Of course, I have to mention that even in my semi-published state I've already 'met' so many amazing published writers: the whole Japan lot, especially the guys and gals at SCBWI Tokyo, the awesome Natalie Whipple, the amazing Elana Johnson, the incredibly nice Dianne K. Salerni, the hilariously risque Tawna Fenske, and so many others, I can't name them all. )

Sharing the job title and the shelf:

When I think about all the amazing stories in the universe, and the amazing authors that penned them and think I could be a part of that, well, forgive me if I swoon a little. I get to do what Tolkien did. I get to sit in a section with J.K. Rowling. Maybe around the corner from Stephen King. Excuse me a minute, my brain just imploded and I need to get a paper towel to clean up the mess.

We change the history:

(That was one of the slogans at my JHS sports last year. So proud of my kiddies for coming up wth it on their own. )

I can't think of a single English-speaking Caribbean author who writes commercial fiction aimed at Caribbean audiences. (If you know of one, please point me in their direction- I'd love to read some.) If you just consider Jamaica, Trinida and Barbados, that's a population of over 5 million people. A population that has always been ignored in entertainment. A population that always falls into this hole somewhere between America, Canada and the UK. A population that's constantly misrepresented as one particular dreadlocked, "Hey Mon" stereotype. A population that on average reads more books than the citizens of many other developed/developping countries.

I'm not even thinking about the financial implications here. But just imagine, if someone were to write books for people who loved books but had never had books written for them, how hungry they'd be for them. How happy they'd be.

I want to give them that.

Despise the 9 to 5:

I love my job, but it has a 5 year max, and I'm starting year 4. Which means I need to pick something new in 2 years' time. But frankly, I hate 9to5ing. I hate getting up and putting on the same-ish clothes, to go the same office and sit in the same chair.

That's one of my favourite things about writing. There's enough change to keep me happy. You can work with new characters every few months. Writing is a different process from editing, which is different from marketing and public appearances. You can fly through a first draft and take it slow through edits. You can write in the morning or at night.

And somehow there's still enough consistency to keep me from feeling disconnected. Story structures, arcs, themes are repeated. Aspects of writing become honed into the most effective method and that gets repeated. Your voice grows and develop, but most authors keep the same type of voice throughout their career. Even on a micro-level, you spend at least a year on the development of each book.

My brother:

I told me brother I was a writer. He laughed and said I was a teacher. He's probably forgotten that. But I can't. Not until I'm a writer in my brother's eyes. And everyone else who hangs to the technicality of having an actual book.


It amazes me that there are almost 200 people who thought to click "follow" for my blog. I'm even more amazed by the ones who've been around here for almost 2 years: Marsha, Laura, JP, EJ, Postman, Jen, Erin, ...

And it makes me feel like I owe you guys something. Somethind more than random mumblings and pics of Japan and occasional insights into Caribbean life. I feel like I owe you a book. Whether or not you ever read that book, whether or not you like it, I need to produce it. Otherwise, where do I get off pompasetting (Bajan word, meaning strutting around like a peacock) about the place like I know something about writing, giving advice, offering opinions? If I don't give it my best shot, then I'm just a fraud. This blog is more than just a testament to my insanities. It's a promise.

I will do this.

What motivates you?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Conversation of Plot and Character

The first time I thought about defining plot as a function of character, was in James Scott Bell's PLOT & STRUCTURE. Clearly, the book is about plotting, but he starts his method out with a character. Only since I started reading Dr. Linda Edelstein's WRITER'S GUIDE TO CHARACTER TRAITS did it occur to me that the relationship is mutually beneficial. In the introduction, Dr. Edelstein points out, "situations influence traits, traits influence situations." Well, a plot is really a collection of situations, and a character is a collection of traits. So plugging that into the equation, we get:

PLOT influences CHARACTER, CHARACTER influences PLOT

In this way, plot and character become like a conversation. Plot advances, character responds, plot throws something else, character responds...

I'm a character writer, but the first thing that pops into my mind about a story is the premise. So let's demo this with an example.


Two teens become friends after they're involved in the same car accident. Teen 1 escapes from the wreckage with a single cut above the eyebrow. Teen 1's mother is pulled out unconscious and taken to hospital.


Already from this premise, we know a few things about our 2 teens.

A. Teen 1 has got to not be the time type of person that runs home to cry about the situation, or how will Teen 1 and Teen 2 meet?

B. Teen 2 needs to be in the hospital too, and therefore needs to be injured.

C. Teen 1 needs to be the kind of person that will go check on Teen 2.

D. Teen 2 needs to not kick Teen 1 out of the room, and not find the visits creepy. So let's put Teen 2 in a coma.

E. Also, we have to decide whether we want to concentrate on the friendship, or if we want possible romantic tension. Since I just want the friendship, I'll make both of the teens girls.


Teen 1 starts going to Teen 2's room, because she's not allowed in her mother's sterilised room, because of her injuries, and the risk of infections that could kill her.

But as long as Teen 1's mother is still alive, she'll spend most of her time in the observation room by her Mom, so let's kill off her Mom.


Once again Teen 1 can't be the type to run away. She needs to keep going to Teen 2's room. Let's make her the type to think that her mother's death is in vain, if she doesn't connect with Teen 2.

Since Teen 1 is spending all this time alone with Teen 2, then we need to make sure Teen 2 has no other visitors. Maybe her parents have gone on a trip somewhere.

Teen 1 starts telling stories about her childhood/mother/life to Teen 2.

Teen 2 reacts physically to the voice after a while, and eventually wakes up.


Teen 2 has a few choices when she wakes up. She can be totally weirded out by Teen 1 and kick her out. She can appreciate the fact that she's there when noone else is. Maybe she caused the accident and will feel guilty. Maybe she'd been on her way to do something interesting when the accident happened: 1 year anniversary with her bf, get an abortion, sit an exam.

At every juncture plot or character can go in different directions. When the plot goes one way, it changes/develops the character. When the character does something, it pushes the plot. If at any juncture the plot takes a different tack, then the character is also influenced and vice versa.


So this idea is something that hit me on Saturday, so I haven't had a chance to think about the implications for me. Or whether or not I've seen this in books. The only thing that pops to mind is the YA MC who will avoid telling a simple truth for the whole book, only to have it blow up in her face in a bigger way than necessary. If at any point, she would have made the choice to tell the whole truth, then the happily after ever would have been in Chapter 3.

Does every book have a conversation of plot and character? Or could you insert a totally different character and have the plot still take all the directions it does? Should you be able to do that? What does this mean for planning a novel? Drafting? Editing? Can you develop plot and character individually or must they always be thought of together?

Do you think plot and character are a conversation?

Beachbody on writing- Commit.

Beachbody motto.

Two weeks ago, we talked about how the first word of the Beachbody motto 'DECIDE' applies to writers. This week we move onto word number 2.


There are several levels of commitment you will need on your way to publication and a career as a writer.

The lifestyle
One level of commitment is to the lifestyle. This doesn't have to be the first thing you commit to. But if you want to be a career writer, then it will be the thing you need to commit to the longest.

When I say lifestyle, I'm not talking about the romaticised notion of the beret-wearing, chain-smoking, alcohol-imbibing, free-loving, narcotic-using writer. I'm talking about the changes and sacrifices that you'll need in your life to ensure that the books keep coming.

In this day and age, one of the first things you need to commit is a computer with a word processor. In the developed world, most of us have access to this. But unless you're going to do the majority of your first-drafting and editing long-hand, you'll probably want your own dedicated machine. You wouldn't want to suddenly realise that the reason John hates Greg is because he found out that he slept with Nancy only to not be able to write because your Dad is on his 57th consecutive round of Solitaire and trying to set a Guinness World Record.

You'll also want a writing space. Ideally, this would be a dedicated writing space where you never do anything other than writing. And according to Stephen King, it will ideally have a door. If you're working and have the disposable income, you can buy yourself a desk, and decorate the area so it inspires you. But even if you're not working or don't have that sort of money, you need a place that you can be comfortable to work. It may be sitting on the floor with your back against the bed and the laptop on a tiny folding breakfast-in-bed tray. It may be in the corner booth at Starbucks. And if your dayjob/other life makes you move around a lot, you'll just have to make that effort to secure a writing space every time you arrive in a new locale.

The writing life will also change your social life. First you need to accept that your friends are just not going to get it sometimes. What do you mean you're going to stay home and right instead of the weekend beach trip? Explain to your close friends that it's important to you, and that it's nothing personal. They'll get that and support you. As for Facebook friends/acquaintances just stop worrying about them judging you for not 'being at every catfight'. (Bajan saying to mean that you're always in everything.) If you've already declared your intentions to the world, just tell them you're writing. If you haven't, make up some excuse.

You also need to invest in the long-term. Some of that will be financial, some of that won't. You may want to go to conferences. Be sure to go to one that's appropriate for you. If you're just starting out maybe you want one with a lot of feedback opps. If you've got a polished manuscript, maybe you want one where you can pitch agents/editors. Look out for writing groups in your area. If there aren't any, you can find lots of groups online. Buy craft books. I think every writer should read a few of these. At a bare minimum, you should read a general one, and one for your genre. You can also try ones on specific elements like Plot, Setting, Characters, Dialogue, etc.

The current book
The first thing I committed to, even before I made the decision to go for publication, was the book I was writing at the time, MS 1. I guesstimate that it takes me between 50 and 100 hours to write a book, and I'm considered fast. So let's say it takes everybody 100 hours. At an hour a day, that's 100 days or a little over 3 months. At 8 hours a day with weekends off, that's almost 3 weeks. To find and use that amount of time is definitely a commitment.

The second thing is that there is a point at which it all goes to mush. Maybe nothing actually changed, but the rose-coloured glasses come off, and suddenly the manuscript looks like crap. Plotters may get frustrated with characters or plots not going where they're supposed to. Pantsers may have difficulty figuring out where to go next. You question the worth of the story idea, the strength of the voice, the uniqueness of the plot, the likeability of the character... Maybe there's also a Shiny New Idea in your mind that you'd kind of like to get written as well.

No book is as good as it could be in it's first draft. As you go on, the frist drafts get better, to be sure. But they get better on the backs of all the ones that were worse. On top of which, you really can't be trusted to be objective mid-book. So you may actually be writing the best thing since the Odyssey and still be tempted to choke yourself to death on the horrible manuscript. It doesn't have to be all bad or all good either. If you commit to finishing it and then take a couple of weeks or months away from it, and then read it with fresh eyes, you'll be sure to see the merits you originally saw in the story. And you'll see what doesn't work so you can change it.

That brings us to editing. Someone once said, 'Writing is rewriting.' If you think the first draft process is long, that's just the tip of the iceberg. After that's finished, you still have to re-read. Then you'll want to polish up the plot. Then maybe make the emotional bits more emotional. Or make your characters stand out. Take the setting up to the right level of vivid. Nail the voice. Edit for grammar. Line edits for the perfect words and phrasing. And so on. And that's before you find an agent and go through another round(s) of edits, and then do the same all over with an editor.

If you do sell this book, you'll be working on it for the next 2 years, editing, copyediting, looking at titles, looking at cover art, marketing. And it doesn't really ever stop. You will be committed to that book for as long as you live, and maybe even after you die.


If you have more than one book you want to turn out, or you're aiming for a career as a writer, then you also need to commit to the next book. But Claire, shouldn't you be concentrating on this book? Of course, but that doesn't let you off the hook for the next one.

Keep your eyes open. I don't believe that ideas come out of a vacuum. I think that they come from a writer's interaction with the world. So when you see a person dressed as a zombie while standing in the cheesecake line and think, 'Aha! What if cheesecake turned people into zombies?!?!' don't dismiss it because you're working on something right now. File it away in your brain or a notebook or a computer file. It might just be perfect for your next book.

Your commitment to the next book also requires professional behaviour. The publishing industry is small to the point of being incestuous. You've got 6 (or so) major publishers in America. Editor 1 is now at Company B, but she started at Company A. She's friends with Editor 2 who worked with her at Company A, but went on to Company C, and is now at Company D. Editor 3 used to work at Company B, but is now at Company E. And Editor 4 is now at Company F, but has worked everywhere but Company A. (How is that not exactly like 16th century European Royal families?)

So just because Company B didn't sign your 2nd book, and your contract for the first has been fulfilled, don't think that gives you the right to act like a shark with a toothache. Remember that everybody knows everybody, and Hollywood-style, you may never work in this town again.

Are there any other writing commitments you think you should make?

Come back next week to read about the final word of the motto: SUCCESS.

(PS. You guys are so awesome! Thank you for all the support on Monday's Depression post. It was kind of hilarious to see apologies for not entering the Kindle contest. Next time around, I'll give lots of notice. Also welcome aboard Matthew, and thanks to Marsha for recommending me. I'm feeling a little better today as well- fighting my way up. :) )

Monday, September 12, 2011

Inside Depression

I hope this post isn't too depressing, but it's not like I promised butterflies and unicorns. Also, I'm kind of going for informative. Here goes nothing...


Depressed does not mean sad. (The earliest meaning I can find in my etymology dictionary is "afraid"!) It's come to be synonymous with sadness, but it really means "brought down" or "put down" either with respect to mood, or in a completely general sense. Now, I'm all for the evolution of words and all, but it drives me a little crazy when people ignore the original meaning of a word. When I say, "I'm depressed," someone's bound to bring up sadness. Makes me want to scream. "WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT SADNESS! GAH"

Depression doesn't have to have a trigger. Sufferers of chronic depression (including bipolars like me) have the joy of waking up one morning and just being depressed. In addition, sometimes the triggers are disproportionate. Your average Joe may get depressed after a loved one dies. Chronic depression sufferers can go into weeks of depression after spilling a juice on their carpet. So another thing, I really hate is "what happened?" Nothing. If something happening was a pre-requisite, then I wouldn't be bipolar.

Seriously, the only thing that keeps me from screaming at people is that I know they mean well. Still, I wish that I didn't have to go through this song and dance every single time.


Psychiatrists probably have a stack of names for types of depression. But today, I'm defining types by what it feels like for me.

Let's take a colouring book as an analogy. It's like a picture coloured in blues, greys, and black. And every time you open to a new page, and pick up an orange crayon, it suddenly turns to blue.

Good things happen and I'm sad. Bad things happen and I'm sad. Sad depression, as the name suggests involves lots of time being sad. Even if it was triggered by something, the depression becomes bigger than the trigger. I get sad about, and despite, everything else. Lots of time curled up in a ball, crying on the floor. Going to bed, every night hoping to wake up to a sunny morning, and get out of the mental rain.


I guess worthless depression is a little more logical. We've all failed at things, we've all done things we're not proud of. When I fall into a worthless depression, it's like "why am I here when I don't do anything worth doing?" All the things I've ever failed at stack themselves up in my mind. All the ways I'm failing now jump out at me. I look around at my friends and see where they are in their lives. And where I'm not.

Worthless depression doesn't have to be sad. Sometimes, it's like there's no emotion involved in it at all. I think this kind of depression is hardest for me, because you can't argue against it logically. At least with sad depression, you can use logic to know you shouldn't be feeling sad.

To go back to the colouring book, worthless depression is like a book full of pictures that are all coloured outside the lines. It's like flipping through 700 pages and only seeing pictures like that. So then you wonder if you can even colour any better. And if you can, does it make sense to start now?


In a bland depression, the colouring book pages haven't been coloured. You don't know were the crayons are. It would take so much effort to go for look for them, and really what's wrong with just the outlines on the page anyhow?

Bland depression is about losing your taste for life. When I'm in the midst of a bland depression, I lose interest in the things that I normally like. Just like good things stop being good, bac things stop being bad. It's a lot of nothing. I get myself through it by bare routine. Drag myself to work. Check email every few days. Blog most days. Because when nothing feels better or worse than anything else, what reason is there to do anything?


All three "types" of depression I've mentioned are actually individual symptoms. They can come on altogether, and in combinations with other symptoms. I've just defined them by which feeling is the pre-dominant one. Here are the symptoms of depression according to WebMD:

difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
fatigue and decreased energy
feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
irritability, restlessness
loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
overeating or appetite loss
persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

And, in case you're wondering, why the "happy" post today, yes, I am depressed. It's mostly a bland depression. But I'm going crazy with people asking me why I'm sad (cause I'm not) and what happened (nothing did, I'm bipolar).

Hope y'all learned something/identified with something. It's Monday, and that's what's on my mind.

P.S. I've somehow failed to give away a Kindle. Seriously. Not one entry. For a Kindle. I will think about that when the depression's over. Honestly, who fails to give away a Kindle? How is that even possible?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happy International Literacy Day!

I'm a writer. I've been a reader longer than I can remember. I speak 5 languages; in fact I live my life in a language other than my mother tongue.

Words are my life.

I've always been connected to books. I've mentioned more than a few times that I was a bit of a legend for multi-tasking as a child. When they said, "she can't put that book down," they meant it. In primary school, the teachers would make up errands to send me on, so they culd watch me walk and read! (One of them admitted this in a speech at graduation.) And I've never walked into something, or fallen, or even slipped. Even though I regularly walk into stuff, and fall, and slip when I'm not reading.

Somehow, reading makes me hyper-aware of my surroundings. In complete contrast, reading also pulls me in so thoroughly that I notice nothing else. I've been known to read a book cover to cover without eating, drinking or using the bathroom.

There's always a lot going on in my brain- I actually think I have ADD, but that's another post- and reading somehow quiets that. I love movies and music, but I think one of the things I'll always love about curling up with a book, is that it's all inside. I'm not very visual, so when I read, I don't see characters or scenes. It goes much deeper than that. I feel them. That's why it's so hard to keep reading a book when I didn't connect with the characters. I feel them long after the book is closed. In fact, I got so attached to the characters in Elana Johnson's POSSESSION, I couldn't read anything else for days. Every time I tried, Vi and company would intrude.

Another beauty of books is that it's so personal. As I said, I don't see the story, but that's me. Some people do see the characters. Some people smell the smells and tastes the tastes. And that's one of the hard things about movie casting, because so many people have already designed the cast, and the setting, in their minds, that whatever Hollywood does, just doesn't fit. Because, the movie looks mostly the same to everyone, but a book is what you make it.

I know this post is rambling, but it's like me love for books: all over the place, touching everthing.

Enjoy your literacy! Hug a book today!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Loving Literacy Blogfest: Win a Kindle

Remember how I told you September was going to be bigger than weekly book giveaways?

September 8 is International Literacy Day (and my Daddy's birthday, which is why I remember it). Books and literacy have done so much for me, that I felt like I needed to do something big to celebrate.


Model: 3G + WiFi Kindle.

I was tempted to go the cheap route (because I need to be less of a spendthrift), but I didn't for two reasons.

1. The least expensive Kindle route includes ads on your Kindle. I don't want ads in my books. There are ads every-dang-where else.

2. This Kindle (and the DX- the one I have) provide free Wireless and 3G coverage worldwide* (check Amazon for caveats). And you know how important "internationality" is to me.

If it's not good enough for me, why should it be good enough for anybody else?


In honour of International Literacy Day I'm hosting the Loving Literacy Blogfest.

BLOGGERS, enter by adding your blog to the linky thing and posting 400-600 words on any topic to do with literacy.

NON-BLOGGERS, email me your 400-600 words on any topic to do with literacy, along with your desired "display name" and your state/city/country.

(Anything you tie back to literacy is ok as a topic: Why I love books more than movies, Why there should be more literacy programs in 3rd world countries, How popular books are a great way to convert "non-readers", How books are the least expensive avenue to different worlds, etc.)


I will select my five favourite posts and, YOU, the awesom-est of the awesome, will select our winner by a vote. :)

Voting is also open to everyone, but there'll be a scale in favour of pre-contest followers.

Voters can only vote for one of the five entries.

And if you enter, and you want to campaign your friends, that's totally kosher.


SEP 1-8: Enter your link on this post.

SEP 8: Post or email your Literacy Day entry

SEP 12-16: The entries go up, one a day on my blog.

SEP 19-23: Voting



This contest is open to everyone, everywhere Amazon will ship Kindles. (Pakistan crew, I'm sorry they don't ship there.) If you're in an exempt country, you're welcome to use a friend's address in another country, but you might want to make sure the shipping thing isn't your country's restriction as opposed to Amazon.

Looking forward to reading the posts. :)