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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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