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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Dipping into Pandora's wedding box

On 22nd May 2014, my South African boyfriend Danie proposed and we got engaged. We planned to get married one year later. On 31st May, Danie left Australia and went back to South Africa. By close of business 1st June, I’d bought my wedding dress, chosen the bridesmaids’ dresses and the colour scheme. A week later, the rest of the wedding was booked and organised.

Danie was shocked. ‘I only left Australia yesterday, and you’ve already bought your dress? What are you going to do for the rest of the year?’ My dad thought I was crazy. ‘You’re probably going to change dress size before next year now that you’re back in Australia.’ My five bridesmaids were nervous. ‘What if one of the other bridesmaids gets pregnant before then?’ I explained to all that it wasn’t a problem. I’d chosen dresses with a corset back so we could lace them up as tightly or as loosely as we needed. And there were plenty of other non-wedding related things for me to do while I waited for the big day, such as relax and wait for my organisation to pay off.

In the following months, as Danie and I discussed the completely organised nuptials, the clasp on Pandora's wedding box gave a little pop. While we were living in Japan, we'd felt so culturally similar that it was as if we’d grown up on the same street. But now we were back in our own countries and planning a wedding, the differences in our backgrounds began to emerge. The people in our street had been going to different weddings.         

Danie asked me what the table at the front of the wedding ceremony was for and the lid on Pandora's wedding box creaked open. I told him the table was where we would sign the marriage documents. Danie was confused. ‘Why would we bore our guests with admin tasks during our wedding?’ He'd never been to a wedding in South Africa where this was done.

Once the lid was open, other differences began to pop out. In Danie's street, it is apparently traditional to heckle the groom during the speeches. In my street, heckling is a risky business and would almost certainly result in a death stare from the bride.

In Australia, the bridesmaids in their beautiful dresses and groomsmen with their lapel flowers sit on display at the bridal table. In South Africa, the parents of the couple sit up the front at the bridal table. If there is not enough room, the bridesmaids and groomsmen get bumped off the table and relegated to the crowd. How do you choose between the bridal party and the in-laws?

Then the lid of the box flew right open. I found out that in South Africa the guests get to choose their main course from a selection of several options. In Australia, we usually have alternate service. This means every second person gets a dried up piece of chicken, and every other person gets a juicy steak. The waiters serve the food then run for it before the room erupts in a flurry of food envy and plate swapping.
This is what an Aussie wedding guest looks like if they get the dried up chicken instead of the juicy steak.
Image by doc. License restrictions apply.
Now the box is open, I wonder what will come out next on our street.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Re-entry shock blues

Everyone warned me I’d have trouble settling back to life in Australia after three years in Tokyo. In those first few weeks back home, I gorged myself on cheap fruit and chocolate, drove everywhere, and spoke freely without having to translate in my head first. I thought how wrong everyone had been. Aside from my friends, I didn’t miss Japan. I was happy to be home. Life was so easy in Sydney.

Then after a few weeks, re-entry shock hit. I tried to catch the train to give me a break from driving, but it came half an hour late, full of people with their feet on the seats. I spoke easily and was perfectly understood, but I couldn’t cover up my blunders under the language barrier anymore. I tried to explore new places, but everything looked the same as before I’d left, even though I felt different. And worst of all, I couldn’t find a decent piece of raw fish or fermented soy beans anywhere. I missed Japan.

So I started trying to relive my life there. I joined the local branch of a running club I’d been a part of in Tokyo. But instead of being an exciting mix of internationals and locals, it turned out to be a seniors walking group. I organised a weekend ski trip to Thredbo but instead of a mountain of Japanese powder and relaxing in the hot-springs at night, it was a crowded ice-hill, with shower lines at the hostel. I went out for Asian food but I got Fanta and a fork with my bibimbap.

Things are different back in Australia. Where's the tinned corn on my pizza! 
After three months of wrong turns, I think I’ve now finally settled on a good balance between my life in Australia and what it was in Japan. To the relief of my friends, I now try to save all my Japan stories for Japanese class, where my classmates politely listen without dropping their heads backwards in a fake snore. I make the most of Sydney’s great weather and go on bushwalks and picnics with old friends without paying professional tour guides to organise it like I did in Japan. And I’ve started Skype Japanese lessons with my old Japanese teacher in Tokyo so I can still regularly capture the challenge of trying to express myself in another language, which was such a big part of my life over there.

After three months back home, I can now say I’m happy to be back but I will always miss my time in Japan.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Farewell Japan

After more than three years of adventures, it's time to say goodbye to Japan. I'm flying back to Australia tonight and will be settling in Sydney. I'll be stopping in Cairns on the way to talk to the students at St Mary's College about life in Japan, and The Ghostly Grammar Boy.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about finishing this chapter of my life. I'll miss my friends in Japan most of all. But I'll also miss the amazing food and culture. It's going to seem weird when everything is easy again and I don't feel like it's a huge achievement to buy the right groceries or make a phone call.

Thanks for the good times Japan!





Monday, 3 March 2014

Gullible's travels

When I was seven years old, I found a note under my pillow. It said:

Dear Sandra,

Please use this 20 cents to buy something nice for you and your beautiful sister Jennifer. Don’t tell anyone about this note.

Love,
God


I was so excited when I found the note and immediately ran to Jennifer and showed it to her. Jennifer said I’d better make sure I buy something nice for her, and don’t tell anyone about the note. But I couldn’t control myself… I told my little sister, Linda. But she didn’t believe me. Unsatisfied with her response, I told my little cousin Christian, but he also didn’t believe me. I started to feel really frustrated. No one would listen to me! So I told Mum.

As soon as Mum heard the story, she demanded to see the note. I showed it to her and she immediately recognised Jennifer’s handwriting. She asked Jennifer if she wrote the note. I looked at Jennifer expectantly, waiting for her to deny it but her face suddenly clouded over. She snatched the 20 cents out of my hand and said “San-DRA! I told you not to tell anyone!”

Ever since then I’ve vowed to never be taken for a fool again. That’s why the other day in Tokyo I was probably a bit too ready to disbelieve my friend Nana when she gave me something to eat, claiming it was fish sperm sack. I thought she was playing a trick on me and I was determined not to be gullible. So I threw it into my mouth and chomped it down. It didn’t taste fishy at all, it tasted like delicious creamy cottage cheese, so I knew I’d been right. I helped myself to seconds. But even after I finished eating, Nana still swore it was sperm sack. I asked other people and they confirmed it. I was lucky it was cooked—apparently it’s often served raw and has a much stronger flavour.

Beware: fish sperm sac, NOT cottage cheese

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Monday, 10 February 2014

When things don't make sense, it might not be your fault

I used to be a really light sleeper and had to wear ear plugs at night to block out noise. One holidays I was sharing a room with my sister Linda. We talked for a while, then I told Linda I was going to put my ear plugs in, so I wouldn’t be able to hear her if she spoke to me. Linda said good night and rolled over. A few minutes later I heard her muffled voice.

Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: “WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU. I’VE GOT MY EAR PLUGS IN. SPEAK LOUDER.”
Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: “I STILL CAN’T HEAR YOU. SPEAK LOUDER.”
Linda: “Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”
Me: (pulling my ear plugs out). “Argh! What did you say?”
Linda: “I said, Smandra… skljdfkqwejrklwnerflsdlkfaldkj.”

She’d made mumbling sounds to trick me into taking my earplugs out.

I was reminded of this the other day when I was having dinner with a group of Japanese friends. The conversation started out in English but after a few minutes it turned into Japanese. Mostly I can’t understand Japanese, but I can catch a few words and sometimes guess what the conversation is about. To me, Japanese sounds like a phone call that’s cutting in and out: “Please … because… like… thank you… do me the honour… have to…?”

I was busily trying to put the fragments of conversation together when I realised for once it didn’t sound like a phone call breaking up, but like a phone call that had completely cut out. None of the words made sense to me at all! I felt really disappointed. I needed to study harder. I’d been hanging out with too many English speakers and lost all the Japanese I’d learnt. Finally, I gave up trying to understand and asked my friends what they were talking about. They told me they were making baby talk in Japanese—the English equivalent of “goo-goo gaa-gaa, a-coochy-coochy-coo”. It was no wonder I couldn’t understand them. They weren’t using real words.

I've been wasting my time studying Japanese when I could have just made up words.

I think I might try the same thing when I’m talking to people in English. If someone looks like they’re not listening to me, I’ll say “a goobly gooky snoogly snook” and see how they react.

Friday, 3 January 2014

5-star review for The Ghostly Grammar Boy - a great start to the new year!

The new year leapt off to a great start for me with a five-star review of The Ghostly Grammar Boy from Cheryl Schopen of Readers' Favorite website. The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook is available for free at all major online book retailers except Amazon.


Book review of The Ghostly Grammar by Sandra Thompson - reviewed by Cheryl Schopen for Readers' Favorite

 

"...There can only be one word to describe Sandra Thompson and The Ghostly Grammar Boy: AMAZING. Thompson’s first book in the Dusk Duo series was written incredibly well. The dialogue was realistic, the characters were completely believable, and the plot was entertaining yet surprisingly suspenseful. I literally could not put the book down. I stayed up for hours reading, determined to finish. And when I did, I was so frustrated that I would have to wait for the next book in the series. I rarely feel this way about a book, and since I am a huge bookworm, that says a lot.

This book has it all. There were times where I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, and then there were some touching moments that just made my heart flutter a little. Throughout the entire book, I was on the edge of my seat. It was so unpredictable with just the right amount of twists and unexpected turns. If you like suspense, mystery, humor, heart, a little bit of romance, and a character that will remind you of your high school self, then give this book a chance. You definitely won’t regret it; I sure don’t. I now have a favorite new author. I will be counting down the days until the next book in the series comes out."

For the complete review, check out Readers' Favorite.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

I can see clearly now

Regular readers of this blog may recall my disastrous experience at the optometrist a few months ago. I tried to get my eyes checked at a Japanese-speaking optometrist, but couldn’t understand a thing they said. Daily headaches and eye strain later, I can confirm… yes, thanks to my terrible Japanese, I’d been given the wrong prescription.

I was determined not to make the same mistake again. This time, when I went to get my eyes re-checked, I used an optometrist who, I knew from friends, could speak English. When I walked inside the shop, I greeted the optometrist in Japanese, assuming he’d reply in English as soon as he heard my terrible speaking. Instead, he complimented my Japanese, and said how it was so helpful for him, because he couldn’t speak a word of English. He then proceeded to conduct the eye examination completely in Japanese.

As soon as I realised what was happening, I panicked. I was in the same situation all over again! I opened my mouth to tell him I knew he could speak English and to please talk to me in English, but then it hit me…I’d actually understood everything he’d said so far. I’d been so busy concentrating, I hadn’t noticed he was speaking in extremely slow, short, simple, sentences with lots of hand gestures, and waiting for me to understand each sentence, before he said the next. He was being kind, and helping me practise my Japanese, without sacrificing my ability to understand him. So I closed my mouth and we continued. The examination took twice as long as usual because I was so slow at communicating, but this time we both understood each other. I got new stronger glasses, and I haven’t had another headache since!

My new glasses - the right prescription this time!

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Time flies when you've got writer's block

Staring at a blank computer screen, mind frozen, and spirits plummeting… when I’ve got writer’s block the hours fly past in this state, and I can’t write a word. After a while, I’ll start imagining all the things I’d rather be doing. Going to the dentist or getting my thighs waxed seem like attractive options.

Everyone has different methods for dealing with writer’s block. For me, I find the best thing to do is try to keep two things in mind. The first is ‘A true writer is one who writes every day.’ I tell myself I’m a real writer, because I’m sitting here having writer’s block. This makes me feel like what I’m doing is dramatic and not a waste of time. As soon as I capture this exciting feeling that made me want to write in the first place, the words start to flow more easily.

The second thing I remember is something my Mum used to say when I complained about my English homework. She’d say, ‘Squash the critic and write’. It’s hard to get anything onto the page if I’m judging and criticizing every word. Once I ignore the critical voice in my head, and let myself off the hook about writing well, it’s much easier to get the words out.

After all of that, if the dentist’s chair is still looking attractive, I’ll give up and eat some chocolate. Sometimes you’ve just got to give yourself a break.

When all else fails, it’s time for some chocolate.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch hits the papers!

News of The Ghostly Grammar Boy book launch in Tokyo hit the newspapers in Australia last month! Sydney based local newspaper, The North Shore Times, reported on the event, which occurred on the night of a big typhoon. Thank you to everyone who turned up to make the event such a success and to my Sydney-based readers for spotting the article!


Newspaper article printed in the North Shore Times

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Book lovers brave a typhoon to launch The Ghostly Grammar Boy

As Tokyo shut down for a once-in-a-decade sized typhoon, the Japan book launch of The Ghostly Grammar Boy was just warming up. Book lovers braved terrible rain and winds on Tuesday night to attend the launch in Tokyo, and their stoicism and party spirit sent the book off to a flying start. The audience came from all over the world: Australia, Japan, Russia, and South Africa, with two things in common – the fact that they were very wet, and an interest in reading the new teen thriller.

Thank you so much to everyone who came along, especially during the typhoon. You made it a very special night and I really appreciate your support. For those of you who missed the night, check out the video and speech transcript below!

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is available on Amazon and Smashwords. Check out the reviews on Goodreads.



Book launch speech and reading transcript


When I was in high school, a phone was smart if it could send a text message; and Facebook didn’t exist, so we stalked our boys by foot. Yet even in those dark ages, high school was still both the most exciting, and the worst experience of my life.

I remember how much fun it was when we poured water all over our school uniforms, and then walked into the classroom pretending nothing was wrong. I remember how upset I was when mum refused to buy me new clothes because “Sandra, it doesn’t matter what you wear, people will just be looking at your face.”

High school is a time where your friends are everything to you, and your parents are monsters who get in the way. I wanted to try to capture the intensity of these feelings in my book but also raise the stakes a bit. What if you had to deal with all these things while also hiding a terrible secret?

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is about Fiona, a fifteen year old school girl. Her greatest dream is just to survive year ten and seem like a normal person. There’s just one problem. She can see and touch ghosts, thanks to her pesky twin sister, Ella, who happens to be dead. Fiona’s plans are ruined when Ella, her ghost twin sister, begs her to investigate the death of a boy from the local grammar school.

As Fiona bumbles along trying to solve the mystery of the ghostly grammar boy, she finds herself entangled in a web of lies, deceit and high school bullies. But mean friends are the least of Fiona’s problems. Because sticking your nose in places where it doesn’t belong can be dangerous.

(Reading) My mood changed instantly when we arrived at the beach. I could almost forget I had a murder to solve, that my friends knew too much about my love life, and that I had a huge pile of homework waiting for me at home. Surf Beach was particularly beautiful today. The sun glistened on the blue-green water, and the waves broke neatly in foaming parallel lines across the beach. The expanse of water was framed on either side by two small, bushy headlands.

The waves lapped at my feet invitingly…

….like a foot massage from the abominable snowman!

It was freezing!

At that moment, a wind direct from Antarctica plastered my board shorts to my skin, and caused every goose-bump on my body to respond in overdrive. A second later, the glistening ocean darkened as the sun went behind a cloud. The temperature seemed to drop ten degrees and my desire to swim disappeared instantly.

But I knew I would regret it if I went back to land-locked Canberra without getting wet. Steeling myself for the cold, I ran through the shallows into the deep water and dived. It was even worse than I’d imagined. The icy water tightened around my chest. I tried to glide back up to the surface for a breath, but… I couldn’t move.

I started to panic. What was happening? I really needed to breathe.

My chest muscles tightened further. The weight in my chest was getting heavier. I was really struggling now.

I pushed my feet firmly into the sand and tried to propel myself upwards. But still I couldn’t move! The pain in my lungs was becoming unbearable. I clutched my ribs, only to get the shock of a lifetime.

There were hands, squeezing me around the chest. One of my friends was holding me down. This wasn’t funny. My chest was going to explode.

Frantically, I grabbed at the hands gripping me and tried to pry them loose. I managed to get one free, but the person quickly replaced his grip with a bear hug. I couldn’t take it much more. My chest was heaving, willing me to take a breath. I squirmed desperately while fighting the temptation to suck water into my lungs.

I couldn’t continue to fight much longer. In a few seconds, I would be joining Ella on the other side.

All of a sudden, the pressure released and I was propelled to the surface.

I gulped air the instant my face broke free of the water. Nothing had ever tasted so sweet.

Suddenly, two wet, matted, female heads surfaced near me. The two girls were screaming at each other, and clawing at each other’s hair. They flailed around, locked in each other’s scratching embrace.

Despite their vicious movements, the water remained still and calm around them.

That could mean only one thing. They were ghosts. And they were angry.


(End of reading)

High school’s hard enough without having to sort out your dead sister’s love life as well. Writing this book really made me appreciate the experience I had at school. I’m glad I didn’t have a supernatural secret and a sister with a dead, troubled boyfriend.

Well I don’t want to give too much away so please read the book and find out how it all turns out for Fiona and the ghostly grammar boy. The print books are on sale tonight, and you can also order the ebook version online at Amazon and Smashwords.

Thank you so much to everyone for your support. I really appreciate you coming out tonight in the typhoon and hearing about my new book. I would love it if you could read my book and leave a review somewhere – whether it’s on Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, or my blog, I would really appreciate it. Reviews will help other readers discover my book so if there’s one message I want to get across tonight, it’s please leave me a review.

So thank you very much and please enjoy the rest of the night. It’s all-you-can-drink so let’s get our money’s worth!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Sometimes small talk is big talk

The other day, I tried to ask for no bag in Japanese (kekkoudesu), but instead, proposed marriage (kekkondesu). I realised I’d made a mistake when the check-out assistant froze and slowly backed away from me. The last time I tried to go to the optometrist in Japan I almost blinded myself (see What happens when you get cocky). So when my Japanese teacher wrote the word yukaueshinsui (inundation above floor level) on my vocab list this week, I felt it was a little beyond me. Before I memorise seven-syllable words about flood-levels, I should probably master some basic life skills in Japanese. But I memorised it anyway … because my teacher always seems to know what people in Japan will be talking about.

For example, in March, my teacher asked me to memorise the word sakurazensen (cherry blossom front), which is like a cold front, but made of cherry blossoms. She also asked me to memorise mankaisengen (declaration of full bloom). I knew people like cherry blossoms in Japan, but I couldn’t believe they got into such technical details. But after several conversations turned into detailed discussions of cherry blossom bloom-levels and locations, I realised I was wrong. These technical details were hot topics during cherry blossom season, and if I didn’t know these words, I wouldn’t be able to understand small talk. It’s typhoon season right now, so I guess my teacher is expecting some floods and ‘inundation about floor level’. I eagerly await putting my new vocab to use while my house goes underwater.

Cherry blossoms: get your jargon right before you try to talk about them

This has made me wonder what sort of things English teachers in Australia teach foreign students, which might seem surprising everyday topics to anyone from overseas.

Spring: The firies* were backburning this morning and now my washing smells like smoke.
Summer: Don’t you hate it when weetbix dries like cement on your bowl and you can’t get it off?
Autumn: It was cloudy and cold yesterday but I still got sunburnt. Thanks ozone hole!
Winter: It’s getting cold. I hope the huntsmans (spiders) don’t come inside to have babies in my bedroom again.

*Firies = firefighters

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy print book is now available!

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now available as a print book on Createspace! Check it out and leave a review!

Monday, 30 September 2013

The obedience test

When I was in high school, my school uniform had a removable, pre-tied, tie. It buttoned under our collars, hanging down like a sign saying ‘dork’. At the start of each year, the principal would advise parents to sew the ties onto our uniforms so we couldn’t take them off. Of course, my mum was the only one who did this, so I was the only buffoon in school with a tie.


The mark of my shame

Mum tried the same trick when my sister started high school, so my sister unpicked the tie. It was such an obvious solution, but because I was such a goody-goody, it never crossed my mind. The school tie was an obedience test and I had failed to think outside the box and followed my mum’s instructions blindly. I don’t know if Mum was pleased or disappointed in me, but I do know I get my obedient goody-goody ways from her.

You see, when I have visitors to Tokyo, I always give them some instructions about the trains. I tell them it’s going to look too crowded to get onboard, but you’ve just got to get on anyway—there’s always space for more people. I tell them what they should do is face backwards so they don’t have to make eye contact, and use their bottoms to shove onto the train. Despite the pep talk, my visitors are usually still pretty hesitant about pushing backwards onto a train. They end up waiting for people on the train to make space for them. On a crowded day, if this takes too long, they might get a shove from behind.

When Mum visited me in Tokyo, I gave her the usual speech, but when the train pulled up, it wasn’t very crowded, so I stepped leisurely onto it facing forwards. Suddenly, I felt a shove from behind, from something round and soft, and I was sent sprawling into the people in front of me. I figured there must have been a crowd surge on the platform behind me. But when I turned around, I saw it was just my mum—and there was no one behind her. She was such an obedient goody-goody, she’d taken my instructions at face value and followed them exactly. Now I know where I get it from.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now available on Amazon!

The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook is now available in the Amazon Kindle store! It's also still available for free on Smashwords until the end of September using the coupon code: TU58E. The print book is coming soon!


The advantages of being a common Thompson

I spend a lot of time on the internet stalking myself. But even if I cheat and look for information I already know exists, I can never get onto Google’s first page of search results. There are just too many Sandra Thompsons. At first my internet obscurity seemed like a good thing. It didn’t matter what I did in life, I never rated a mention on the web. It was a get-out-of-jail-free card. But since I started writing this blog, I’ve begun to doubt whether anonymity is such a good thing. What’s the point of having a blog if no one can find it? Well, last week I discovered something that convinced me beyond a doubt having a common name is a good thing—and it’s got nothing to do with personalised key rings.

You see, I was making a profile on Goodreads to claim The Ghostly Grammar Boy as my book. As soon as I indicated I was an author, my profile became linked up to all the other books written by Sandra Thompson’s around the world. Without lifting a finger, I suddenly had 13 books, 71 ratings for my novels, and a 3.4 star author average!

I was so pleased! All my life, I’ve been slogging away, working for my own name and reputation. Little did I know, out there in the world are millions of Sandra Thompson’s whose work and reputation I could claim for myself.

My future minions




I was just starting to plot the rest of my Sandra Thompson takeover, when I noticed something had changed on my book page. Someone had rated The Ghostly Grammar Boy 4 stars.

I was so excited. I looked at my overall score to see if it had changed too but it was still 3.4. There were so many books and reviews linked to my name now, my one true rating hadn’t made a difference. The other Sandra Thompsons were dragging me down, stifling my first rating. I didn’t need to steal from them, I needed to cut them loose. I asked Goodreads to remove the books from my profile. I might disappear into the sea of Sandra Thompson’s again but at least I’ll get my own ratings.

If you've read The Ghostly Grammar Boy, please leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or Smashwords! Reviews will help other readers find my book.

Monday, 16 September 2013

The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now available on Smashwords!

I’ve finally done it! My first book The Ghostly Grammar Boy is now published. Get it for free on Smashwords for the next two weeks using the coupon code: TU58E. The print book is also coming soon to Amazon, and will be available at my book launch in Tokyo on 15th October (details coming soon). I’d love to get your reviews! Thank you so much to everyone for your support! I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Read on to hear about my greatest fears during the writing process...

Free on Smashwords until 30th September using coupon code: TU58E



My secret fears

During the early years of writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy I had two big fears. The first was that someone might steal my ideas, robbing me of my world best-selling novel. The second was that people might think badly of me when they read my book. I used to lock up my drafts in password protected files, and had copyright marks scrawled on every page. I would rarely tell people I was writing a book, and when I did, I was evasive about the storyline. When people asked to read it, I would always refuse. I did not want to risk losing my work, and at the same time I was petrified they might not like it.

An early version of my book
Finally, one day, after much begging by a friend, I decided it was time to get over my fears. After making my friend promise he wouldn’t copy my book, I gave it to him to read. I spent a sleepless week, tossing and turning, imagining all the horrible things he might think about it, and at the same time, picturing him sending it off to publishers under his name. When I saw him again, I was barely holding myself together as I asked him what he thought. I knew there was no turning back. I could never un-hear his words if he hated it, and I’d never get the book back if he wanted to take it. I needn’t have worried… because he hadn’t even started it. That was five years ago, and until this day, he’s never read a word.

After this happened to me several times, I began to realise I’d been suffering from serious delusions of grandeur. It didn’t matter what people thought of my book, if I could get them to open it up and read the first page, it was a great compliment. If they read the whole thing, it was the greatest gift of all. As for plagiarism, if someone managed to get my work published from the hordes of novels sent to publishers ever year, I applaud them. I would hire them to help me with my next book.

It’s thanks to writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy I’ve learnt you shouldn’t worry too much about what people think of you, you should just be flattered they thought of you at all. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this blog. I really appreciate your support and would love it if you read my book and left a review!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Book Review: Caves, Cannons and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure

I'm giving it 5-stars!

Caves, Cannons and Crinolines by Beverly Stowe McClure is the story of fourteen year old Lizzie and her family in Vicksburg during the American Civil War. It's not just a fight for survival for Lizze and her family, with cannons dropping on their house, food shortages, and wandering vagabonds. Lizzie must also grow up and find her place in the world, as a woman, a sister, and maybe one day, a partner.

As soon as I started reading this book, I knew I was in good hands. From page one, the book launches into an action packed adventure, combined with just enough emotion to let me share in Lizzie's fears, sorrows, and joys. The author expertly weaves the story of Lizzie's personal growth into the adventure and makes the characters and the atmosphere feel very real. I was left thinking about the book for a long time after I finished reading.

In an added bonus, the book is also quite educational. Without meaning to, I learned a lot about the American Civil War, while still feeling like the book was light-hearted and easy to read. I finished the book in one day.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes meaningful stories with strong characters and action. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A Class Apart by Stephen Henning

4-stars for this book!
A Class Apart by Stephen Henning is about British twins, James and Samantha, whose lives change forever after a terrorist attack on their school bus. Sam and James wake up in hospital and gradually discover they have extraordinary abilities. Meanwhile, strange events being unfolding at the hospital and the twins need to quickly come to grips with their new powers, to save themselves and everyone around them.

This book was exciting and stimulating. I really enjoyed the beginning scenes on the school bus, where we learn about the mouth breathers, the bullies, and the high school social hierarchy. Then, just when I was bonding with the school kids and settling in for a book full of teenage angst and relationships, a bomb exploded and it was a whirlwind ride from there.

If you enjoy fast-paced action books, with a supernatural element and a mystery, then this is a book for you. I was enthralled as I tried to figure everything out and follow the characters development into super-beings. Despite their amazing powers, the characters seem like real people, with solid back stories, and real life problems.

The book also felt very original to me. I liked that it was unpredictable and the characters discovered things long before I worked them out for myself. At one point I got a bit restless with most of the story being set in the hospital, and I lost track of all of the police officers and what they were doing. But it didn’t hamper my ability to enjoy the story and the pages kept turning themselves. I felt very satisfied when the loose ends were all tied up thoroughly at the end of the book (except for those leading to the sequel of course).

I also liked the multimedia aspect of the book. The Class Apart website has links to book trailers and news reports from the 24/7 Interactive News service which is featured in the book.

In summary, A Class Apart is a fun, enjoyable read, suitable for teenagers and adults alike.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Things I didn't expect to be corrected on

It’s no surprise I made a lot of mistakes when writing my first book The Ghostly Grammar Boy. During the revision process, I was lucky enough to receive detailed feedback from many family members and friends. I also hired an editor to review the final draft. Between all of us, we found hundreds of plot holes, logical inconsistencies, scientifically implausible events, awkwardly worded sections, spelling, and grammar problems. All of these were fixed for the published version. But there were some pieces of feedback that surprised me more than others. These are three things I didn’t expect.

1. I'm an Aussie but I write like an American


The Ghostly Grammar Boy is about a fifteen year old school girl called Fiona who can see and talk to ghosts. I used to watch a lot of shows like Gossip Girl so my natural instinct was to make the main character an edgy, American teenage girl, at a ritzy US high school. Then I remembered I’m an Aussie! For my book to have an honest voice, I should draw from my own experiences of growing up in Australia. So I made the main character a teenage girl at a public school in Canberra.

Having decided to make the book true blue*, the last thing I expected to hear from my editor was that my book sounded American. There were so many Americanisms my editor even offered to Americanise the whole book for consistency. Apart from all the US spelling I’d accidentally used, I’d also used a lot of American words, for example Fiona had ‘bangs’ instead of a ‘fringe’, fell on her ‘butt’ instead of her ‘bum’, and goes to the ‘bathroom’ instead of the 'loo’ or ‘toilet’. One of the ghosts even materialised carrying a baseball bat - unlikely in cricket-obsessed Australia.

2. Too raunchy but also too innocent


During the book, Fiona experiences her first kiss. I wanted to make the book interesting for teenagers and not too censored so I made the kiss scene steamy and detailed. Embarrassingly, I was told by several people that it was too much – it was too graphic and not appropriate for my intended audience. I removed the details and toned down the scene. On the other hand, I also received feedback that Fiona’s high school friends were unrealistically innocent. I’d written that none of them had ever had a boyfriend, been kissed, or been to a party with alcohol. After hearing this comment, I quickly made Fiona’s friends lose some of their innocence.

3. Old, old, old


When I first started writing The Ghostly Grammar Boy, Facebook was mostly unknown in Australia, smartphones and iPads weren’t invented, and The O.C. was the most popular TV show. By the time I finished, my book was littered with references to previously popular things, long since forgotten. An example is when I referred to a good swimmer as a ‘Thorpedo’. The last medal Ian Thorpe won for Australia was eight years ago.

*True blue means honestly Australian

The Ghostly Grammar Boy ebook will be published on Amazon and Smashwords on 15th September 2013. The book will be available for free for a limited time to the readers of this blog. Check back here again next week for the coupon code and link!