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Yup, you read correctly: apostrophes are my nemesis. When I sit down and think, when I speak aloud the rules I have a complete grasp of when and where to use an apostrophe, but for some reason – some crazy, demented, fat finger typing reason – I can never type them in the correct spot, thus requiring I have to go back over everything I wrote and look closely at my placement of each and every little nemesis.

I try so hard to break the habit, but my problem is if I pause to think each time I type a word containing (or requiring) an apostrophe I lose the flow. Anyone who writes knows what I mean when I say ‘the flow’. It’s that fabulous stream of words that just gushes out of your fingers like water from a fireman’s hose, so fast and furious your fingers can barely keep up. It’s that moment when the creative muse curls up inside you like a cat on your lap and blesses you with idea after idea so you can just keep going all day (or at least until the baby wakes and demands attention).

When you attain the flow you do not want to halt it for something so trivial as the placement of an apostrophe, be it a key that you just didn’t press hard enough or because your brain was paying more attention to the sentence or the paragraph than the individual word.

I mean, that’s what editing is for. You look over your work for all the finger fumbles that put ‘e’ before ‘i’ because you were typing so fast one finger didn’t keep up with the others; all the places where you forgot to add punctuation; where you wrote a sentence that just kept going and going like an unending river that seriously needs a few stops somewhere in it and of course, for those tricksey little apostrophes (or whatever your individual weakness is).

Anyone who claims they never have to check over their writing is lying. I bet even Stephen King does and Neil Gaiman, or whoever your particular favourite (and prolific) author is. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who gets so carried away with ideas that she makes a few mistakes in the first draft. That’s why they’re called first drafts, right?

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Today is my birthday, but more importantly than bragging about my milestone birthday, today is Autism Acceptance Day. Please head over to Light It Up Blue the Autism Acceptance Day website to find out what landmarks are being lit up blue to support autism acceptance and make a donation to support them.

Here in Brissy they’re lighting up the Wheel of Brisbane (not to be mistaken with the Wheel of Time, it’s only our Ferris Wheel), City Hall, King George Square and the William Jolly Bridge. They are even planning to project artworks by a Tim Sharp, an autistic artist, on the William Jolly Bridge.

I follow a few blogs that relate to autism. My favourites are Autistic Hoya – which teaches me something new with nearly every post(including that many prefer ‘acceptance’ to ‘awareness’), Stuff With Thing by the mother of autistic children and Gabrielle Bryden’s blog is where I learned about Autism Acceptance Day.

If you are a fan of comics or manga there is no way I can possibly recommend ‘With The Light’ enough. It is a touching manga released by Yen press about a young Japanese woman who achieves her dream of marrying the office hottie and plans to become his adoring housewife as per Japanese tradition. She comes across a small snag when she notices there is something wrong with their baby Hikaru (his name means Light). She discovers Hikaru is autistic and the many volumes follow Hikaru as he grows up, goes to school all while he and his family learn how to deal with family and strangers who do not understand. It’s heart breaking and touching all at once and is easily one of my favourite manga of all time. Sadly Keiko Tobe, the manga-ka (author/artist) passed away before completing the series but don’t let that stop you from reading it!

I hope everyone will support Autism Acceptance Day but heading over to Light It Up Blue (note my website is blue ;p) and donate or buy some merchandise.

Now I’ve filled your browser with about thirty new tabs, Happy Autism Acceptance Day everyone (and happy 30th birthday me).

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Two years ago on this day I stood in a traditional Japanese room in Kyoto while a woman wrapped me in a blue kimono.

It was an experience I had longed for. Just visiting Japan was a dream I have had since sixteen. I have countless old notepads filled with handwritten budgets for a trip to Japan, but year after year my hopes were dashed by financial ineptitude (ie/ I kept spending my money on books, comics, manga, video games and DVDs). Even later when I began to enjoy the financial freedom of a dual income with my lovely husband my plans kept being dashed by an animal becoming sick ($3,000 worth of sick) or a car breaking down and eventually the plans just faded into the back of my mind as both T-J and I sweated it out in 40+ hour work weeks.

Then T-J stepped up the pressure for wanting kids. I know, a bit of a role reversal, but T-J always wanted kids and while I was not anti-kids I knew I had nowhere near the maturity level I needed just yet. I always knew I was warming up to the idea, but it wasn’t until I became drastically ill with a (still undiagnosed) vertigo disorder. One of the first things they tested the crazy, dizzy girl for was pregnancy. And when the test came back negative I was disappointed. Ok, you got me T-J, it’s kids time, but first take me to Japan. My sickness was in October/November. I was in Japan the following March. Told you he wanted kids.

So there I stood, Kyoto out the window as she pulled the obi tight around my waist. The room was lightly heated against the chill of spring, but outside it was so cold I tottered straight for a vending machine that sold hot coffee cans so I could warm my hands.

We walked together around the temples of Kyoto. The Shinto gods chose to be generous by not making it too chilly and keeping the rain to only a light drizzle in the afternoon. I had prayed at every temple for the five days previous for the weather to be kind just this one day, and the day before we had taken a walking tour of Kyoto that took us to no less than 10 temples.

The kimono was snug against my hips and thighs and my method of walking had to alter to accommodate this. I found myself moving my knees very little, taking small tottering steps. Considering the many slopes in the area of Kyoto we were travelling this led to burning calves after a few hours. The obi and its elaborate bow forced me to stand with better posture than I was accustomed to also, creating a dull ache in my lower back. These things meant almost nothing too me however as nearly every woman who walked past would compliment me with the word ‘suteki’ (pronounced steki due to the silent u), to which I would bow graciously and reply with ‘arigatou’. Suteki translates to stunning and who could bother with mild pain when they were being told such a thing?

Being early spring, the time of cherry blossoms, the temple paths were alive with stalls selling trinkets and food. We ate cherry blossom flavoured ice cream, so delicate and sweet in taste and savoured the smell of roasting squid (though sadly weren’t game enough to try it because we weren’t certain it was squid). Bags full of Studio Ghibli goods started to pile up on my arm and as the light drizzle started its misty fall we sheltered together under my SquareEnix umbrella as we continued on to Kiyomizudera.

At the temple we found a particularly beautiful sakura tree for me to take my dream picture under. I stood there, in a suteki kimono, in front of a blooming sakura tree with a pokewalker on my obi. That photo remains my portrait to this day.

Eventually even being told I was suteki was not enough to abolish the growing pain in my calves and back. We made our way back to the rental store, stopping briefly for a quick meal to be undressed by the same skillful hands as had dressed us that morning.

This is a memory I will treasure forever.

If you want to see or experience any of these things for yourself here are links to the Kimono rental store, the walking tour I mentioned and the ryokan we stayed in. Temples we visited included Kiyomizudera, Gokoki Shrine and Ryozen Kannon and here are some pictures to illustrate the day.

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Layouts and Tamora Pierce

I just found out that my new layout doesn’t allow people on mobile devices to comment. Argh! It took me so long to find and tinker with this one… now I have to seek out another one! Maybe I can light it up blue for Autism Awareness day which falls on my birthday.

On a cheerier note I have recently started re-reading Tamora Pierce’s first quartet: The Song of the Lioness. It brings back memories of my early teen years and even as an adult the stories do not disappoint (if you want to read my reviews, click over to my Goodreads account, there’s a widget in my sidebar).

I came across her books by chance. I don’t know if schools still do this, but in my primary school (elementary school for the non-Australians who might be confused) used to hand out four page catalogues of books once a month and you could order from them. I think they were called the Scholastic Book Club (after the publisher) but my memory isn’t as strong on that. I saw ‘In the Hand of the Goddess’ and even though the only fantasy I had read at that age was The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (yes, I tackled that monster of a book at the tender age of ten), I saw the black cat with purple eyes on the cover and wanted it. Of course when I got it I found out it was book two in a series so it was dumped on my shelf until a time when I could track down book one.

I did eventually find book one, but it was almost a year later. Not that that stopped me from reading both of them as fast as I could and pestering my parents for weeks for the next books.

With this re-reading what fascinates me is that even though I know what is going to happen I am still moved – sometimes even to tears – and for something to be that strong I feel it deserves a special place in my heart indeed.

I am fairly certain Pierce is to blame for the fact that the vast majority of my protagonists are strong females. In fact even books where my protagonist is a male, he is usually infatuated with or somehow guided by a strong female character. Pierce writes women who are strong and smart, who speak their minds but have believable fears and character flaws. If there is any writer out there I want to be like it would be her (though of course I would still prefer to be me 😀 ).

It is hard to pick a favourite of her works, they are all marvellous, but I think it is Daine from the Immortals quartet with whom I connect with best – even if it is mostly over sharing the nightmare of unruly hair.

Who’s your favourite author? What do you love about their works?

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It stuns me to realise this but since February 14th I have taken my current work in progress (working title is Fanta’s Story, but I can assure you that won’t be the final title) from a story outline I transferred into Scrivener to 55,000 words. I have six scene cards – yes you read right only six scenes – until I have completed my first rough draft.

It doesn’t feel real.

I’m dead serious here. It doesn’t. I started writing Storybook Perfect (back when it was called Yui’s Tale, are you sensing a similarity with my WIP titles?) when I was sixteen. I finished it in 2009, when I was 27 and off work for two months with a (still undiagnosed) vertigo disorder. It was only a rough draft finish of course and it has gone through easily eight full edits since, but to go from the first book taking 11 years to the next taking not even two whole months… it blows my mind!

Admittedly I always have had the habit of getting distracted by something shiny and new. I would start Yui’s Tale and after a chapter or a scene or two I’d get excited about ‘the Children of Tejemanya’ or ‘Evannah’ and do some writing in them and the cycle would continue with new books starting, ideas being plotted and then distraction! I’m even the same with games. I start a game, get approximately two thirds through and then something new comes out and I just can’t help but play with it. I can count the number of games I have actually watched the ending credits roll in on one hand. Ok, I lie, I need both hands, but I’ve played easily more than triple that count, keeping my success rate at under 30%. As a quick aside, oddly enough those I’ve finished I often go back and complete AGAIN. My re-completion rate is 60%. What’s wrong with me? I don’t know.

Getting back to my point now, I am easily distracted – as I just proved in multiple ways. What I think has helped me with my current work in progress is having a child.

Whaaaaaaaaat?!

Yep, having a child. I have so little time that I no longer waste it watching TV or just lying around. I have to use every precious minute. It keeps me focused, makes me determined. Even though I have other projects (this blog and my other secret WIP I will reveal soon) I have been able to maintain focus and tear through this. I never had that until now.

So I want to thank my precious baby, Xander, not just for being the light of my life but for helping me write like a real author. I love you.

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Inspired somewhat by this post on naming characters I thought I would tell you all about my recent adventure with naming Storybook Perfect’s protagonist.

Wait a sec you say, didn’t I finish writing Storybook Perfect ages ago – that’s the completed manuscript, right? So why are you naming the character now? I had originally named the character Yui right from the start. She was of Japanese/Australian descent with an Aussie father and a Japanese mother. When she turned eighteen she took her mother’s maiden name as her last name in honour of her deceased mother, so she has an entirely Japanese name.

Originally Yui was Yui Horiba, but recently it occurred to me for authenticities sake I would need to know her name meaning and the kanji she used for her name. For those unfamiliar with the Japanese written language there is the Hiragana(for words of Japanese origin) and Katakana(for words of foreign origin) which are similar to the letters of our alphabet only they cover ‘mora’(syllables) such as ‘ka’, ‘tsu’, ‘ni’ ect. Then they make it really hard by having Kanji.

In a nutshell kanji originated from China and are a large and (often)complex symbol which stands for a word or phrase. Most Japanese children are not fully aware of all the kanji so in many books and manga when a kanji is used the hiragana are written small alongside it so it can be spelled out easily. Most Japanese names have a special kanji attributed to them. I realised I had a serious character flaw in the fact I had no idea what Yui’s kanji or meaning were so I studied up.

I had a dreadful time trying to find the meaning for Horiba – which admittedly was a random Japanese surname that the younger me saw and thought ‘oooh, that sounds cool’ – and eventually came to the decision I might have to drop that last name and pick another.

So I thought it best to start with Yui’s first name. I was fairly certain I didn’t want to change that, but if there was no last name I could match with it and be happy about I might be forced to so I didn’t say never. Yui’s name has multiple meanings depending on the kanji (as with most names). Meanings ranged from tie/link, only and reason and most of those could or were teamed up with the kanji for robe/clothing. With this range of meanings in mind I read through lists of last names and their meanings.

I found a brilliant match almost immediately (It’s enough to make you believe in destiny!) in the surname Watanabe. True Watanabe is almost the Japanese equivalent of Smith, but when you hear what the combination of kanji can read as you will see why I chose it for a protagonist who travels from one dimension to another.

Yui Watanabe can be read with these Kanji

Yui Watanabe in Kanji
The Kanji for Yui Watanabe

as tie/link across boundaries/areas. You’ve got to appreciate that and (not to be too spoiler-tastic with my own book) you learn something more in book 2 about how powerful a meaning that name is for her.

Of course I’m still a little paranoid, I’m only a beginner at Japanese and most of my research on names and kanji has been on the internet (where everything HAS to be true. Right?) so my translation may not be perfect. I’m hoping I might be fortunate enough that someone out there more skilled than I might be able to confirm I have it all right (You’d know someone, wouldn’t you Sammy?).

Out of interest does anyone out there have an interesting name meaning, either for themselves or a character they created?

Lastly I hope I didn’t offend any Japanese people in my descriptions I was decsribing what I knew in the simplest way possible and meant no insult if I made any.

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I first heard about five year diaries in a quarter column in Kare Kano. (Quarter columns for those who don’t read manga/Japanese comics are small spaces – a quarter page to be precise – where, when the chapter was printed in the serialised magazine it originated from, an advertisement used to be. When the chapters are collected up into a book the space is left blank and the author usually fills it with what might resemble a short blog post or a tweet. They usually talk about their life, or something to do with the comic you’re currently reading.)

When I read about it I was immediately enamoured of the idea. I wanted one. I scoured the bookstores, newsagents and stationery stores around me, but to no avail, I’d started looking for it too late in the year, no one could order them in (apparently, even though they don’t bear any set year date) and they are not usually a desired item.

After almost giving up searching I stumbled across one on the sale table in front of a newagent’s where all the 2012 diaries were stacked up and discounted. The ‘yoink’ as I grabbed it before anyone else could was audible I’m certain.

A five year diary features one date (for example, January first) on each page, but the page is split into five parts, one for each year. So as each year passes you can look back to exactly what you were doing this day last year. I’m using it as a tool to encourage me to accomplish at least one thing with my writing each day. Knowing that Future Me will look back on it and frown if I did nothing is a bigger incentive than just feeling glum when a whole week passes me by with no notable progress.

I’ve been having a great time filling up the pages. Some days the five measly lines I have aren’t enough space for everything, even if I shorten my sentences down to note form. I feel a sense of achievement even just looking back at the previous day’s entry sometimes.

What methods do you use to keep yourself motivated? Do you keep a different kind of diary?

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I thought I would post this link so everyone can enjoy them too, but basically these lovely folk had an idea to make dust jackets for books which say ‘bugger off I’m reading’ in a nice way.

Best Dust Jackets Ever

I wish these had been around in high school. I used to ride the bus to and from school, and living in a rural area meant the ride to school was about 45 min and home was about half an hour (this is because the bus made a circuit and I had to take the longer trip in the morning but could skip it in the afternoon). I gladly filled the dreary journey with delightful books like ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’ and ‘The Belgariad’ and ‘Wheel of Time’. However, every now and then someone would have to sit beside me, and on occasion they decided my reading a book was me crying out for human contact.

Now I wasn’t anti-friend making, but if I’m reading it’s because I want to, not because I have no other choice. If I didn’t want to read I could stare out the window at the forests and farmland whisking by – it’s a pretty nice view after all (and still better than talking to some of the people on that bus).

What makes me giggle now as I recall this is when I was fourteen one of the girls who sometimes sat beside me was my now sister-in-law! She confided in me she was always intimidated by my book and didn’t want to talk with me, even though she was interested in becoming my friend.

Just as an interesting cultural aside on dust jackets, in Japan (Kyoto specifically) when I bought a few books, they wrapped them in brown paper dust jackets which advertised the store and hid what book I was reading from any prying eyes. It was very cool and I kept the dust jackets even though I removed them. Here’s a picture of them. I love they even put the website and QR code on the inside. Though as a marketing strategy perhaps the QR code should also be on the outside for non-readers to scan…

Japanese Bookstore Dust Jackets
Japanese Bookstore Dust Jackets
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Wow, I never realised how out of the loop I was. I never even heard of a book trailer until I was reading a blog (Spellbound by Books) and saw at the bottom of one of the posts (this one) a ‘book trailer’. Curious I clicked and entered the world of book trailers.

What a great way to advertise your book in a world full of interactivity. Plus it must be very exciting to see your book on film, even if only as a small advertisement.

Wow! This is so cool! Sorry about the repeated use of exclamation points, but when you feel it, you feel it. I’m super excited and want to make one for Storybook Perfect. Of course I’d need models/actors for my primary characters and I need at least the beach/camp setting and one setting for Azulia (the other world) and I’d have to make the costumes somehow. No idea where I’ll find the time or money for that… but I’m already visualising storyboards in my mind. It’s like someone pushed a cart onto a slope, you can’t stop me now. Of course it will take a while, there’s so much to do both with that and all my other projects, but I’ll find the time somewhere, somehow.

Of course, being a n00b to book trailers in general I really want to see more to get an idea of what is the right and wrong way to go about them, if anyone out there has favourites or favourite-to-laugh-ats please let me know, I’d love to see them all.

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I’m teaching you all another unusual Japanese word today.

I’m reading Ouran High Host Club, a hilarious manga with an unusual female protagonist and a brilliant harem of men who adore her – or at least hang around her enabling the reader to imagine there could be a possible romantic tryst. While reading I came across the word megane again. Back in my otaku days (otaku being the Japanese word for ‘nerd’ and usually used in reference to a particularly fervent fan of anime and manga) when I downloaded gigabytes of fan-subbed anime, read three or four manga tankobons (graphic novel collections of 6-10 chapters) a day (not exaggerating – every day!) and collected figurines and did cosplay, I knew the word. But as the fervour turned into a more well-paced and restrained enjoyment of manga the word slipped out of my vocabulary but has now been returned.

Megane translates to ‘glasses’ directly, but is often used by otaku to say they have a particular penchant for characters who wear glasses like Uryuu Ishida from Bleach, Kyoya from Ouran High Host Club and Miyuki from Lucky Star. Some mean it in a fetishist way, while others (like me) use it to mean usually their favourite characters are the ones wearing glasses. It’s usually a coincidence for me, they just happen to often have glasses, but some people choose their favourites because of the fetish.

I know today was a bit of a random post, but I hope you enjoyed learning a few new Japanese terms (and hearing briefly about my dark past as a wild otaku!