31 January 2013

Photo Thursday: Coffee

Coffee shop window with sakura in the background
Coffee shop window with sakura in the background



Drinking over-priced coffee in Japan while watching the cherry blossoms outside.  I love the old cafes with all the coffee-making paraphernalia, usually aged copper pots and glass things to rival a science lab, but the prices can be really steep.

29 January 2013

Truth, Dare and ... Philippa Moore

This week's Truth, Dare and... brings you Philippa Moore.  Phil is a girl with skills to burn.  Writer, blogger, marathoner and all round awesome chick, I know she's not one to back down from a challenge!


What's the craziest dare you've done - raunchy or otherwise?
It wasn't a dare as such but the closest thing I've had to it was getting a navel piercing after drunkenly declaring it to be a secret desire to a bunch of people one New Years Eve, and then finding myself in the position to get one barely three weeks later on a weekend in Sydney. Even my mum gave me encouragement! So I did it :)

Who dared you? Your friends? Yourself? Someone else?
It was mostly myself, because I'd always wanted one but my ex hated them.  Now he was out of the picture there was no reason not to get one! My friend Mary was very encouraging, and even captured the whole event on camera!  I think I deliberated over signing the release form in the piercing parlour for about half an hour, I was so scared! But there was nothing to be scared of, as it turned out.

What was the outcome? Good? Bad? Totally embarrassing?
It was awesome.  I'd never done anything like that in my life and was amazed at how sexy it looked! I spent the rest of the day, a steamy summer's day in Sydney, hanging out with my friends and feeling high as a kite, utterly delirious on life.  I still have it now, six years later, and every time I look at it I'm reminded of that 25 year old girl on the cusp of some really big adventures.  It's a time in my life I'm happy to remember and be reminded of.  And it helps keep me motivated to keep my stomach looking worthy of display ;)



Philippa Moore is an Australian writer currently living in the UK. She is best known for her blog Skinny Latte Strikes Back which won Best Health, Diet and Fitness Blog at the 2011 Cosmopolitan Blog Awards. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including Running Fitness, Women's Running and Cosmopolitan. Philippa has also completed her first novel and launched a series of interviews with leading authors, Book Ends: the podcast for writers and book lovers. She loves Indian cuisine, op-shopping and yoga and very rarely sits still. She hopes that 2013 might be the year she learns to meditate.


27 January 2013

What Are You Looking At? Weekly Link Roundup!

How's your week been?  I've had a crazy one with not enough sleep.  The world conspired against me with spiders in my bed (how can you sleep after that?) and the dog deciding to escape into the neighbours' yard at 11pm with wacky hijinx!  On the plus side, I've had two stories accepted into anthologies this week so yays, go me.

In web surfing news, this is what I've been looking at.


I'm planning a trip back to Tokyo in September with my sister and a friend.  It's still a long way off by it's fun to look at all the options on AirBnB.  It works out much cheaper to rent an apartment than trying to get a configuration of hotel rooms that doesn't drive us crazy plus we get a lot more space to play in.  I'm really swayed by some of the places around Naka-Meguro.  It's a great part of the city but always been a bit annoying to get to from where I've lived before.  Plus it's a great way to have a sticky beak at other people's apartments.

Because I can't wear my red polka dot dress everywhere, this week I ordered this skirt. Yes, it's exactly the same but in skirt form.  Polka dots rule my life.

From Etsy, lingerie that gets straight to the point.  Hey, a girl's got to ask for what she wants!

The Japanese Slipper was invented in Australia.  Who knew?

I've spent far too long this week watching videos of people do Arashi covers on youtube. This one is exceptionally cute.  I feel a bit weird about linking up other people's kids but its on youtube so they have already put it out there.




26 January 2013

Five things you can do to help your favourite indie published writer

Obviously the best thing you can do is buy their book but if you want to help out your favourite indie published writer (that'd be me, right) there are some other things you can do.

1. Recommend their book to your friends


Word of mouth is awesome.  If you think your friends would like to read the book, let them know about it.

2. Write a review


Reviews are a huge help in selling books so if you have something nice to say, go to Amazon (or the retailer you purchased the book from) and leave a nice review.  Also add it to Goodreads if you are on there.

You can also vote good reviews as being helpful on Amazon, or like them on Goodreads.  It all helps.

3. Amazon Likes


Under the book title on Amazon, there is a "like" button. I'm not sure if it helps on Amazon but click it anyway. It can't hurt.

4. Add the book to lists


You can add or vote on the book on Goodreads lists or add it to lists on Amazon.  It all helps increase visibility so more people know about and buy the book.

5. Pass on any details or opportunities you know about


Have a favourite review site or place you go to gather information about books, le them know. There is much out there that it's hard to know where to market.  A site where they guest post?  a


Support is a very precious thing and I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me so far - by buying my books, letting me guest post on your blog, contributing here, reviewing, sharing.  You people rock and I hope I can support you in your creative projects in the future.

24 January 2013

Photo Thursday: Young Love

Young love at a festival.  The rake in his hand is to rake in cash for the coming year but I don't think his focus is on money.

22 January 2013

Truth, Dare and... Row from Passionate Jade!

Row from the fabulous online store, Passionate Jade, joins us for this week's Truth, Dare and ... with a fun story about the most potentially dangerous dares of them all - blind dating dares. 

Who, on the Goddess's green earth, invented blind dates? Truly. In theory they are a fabulous idea: a friend who knows you, has another friend (of a friend of a friend oh I see how it goes wrong) she thinks you'll like. You meet. Behold! Butterflies, unicorns and heaps of hot s**.

The reality of a blind date is different, and I'm not socially inept (I think). You have to try and find common ground, things to talk about, you are sometimes nervous.... Ah heck, we've all been there.

A mate dared me one day to get myself back out there with a vengance and get myself a boyfriend within three months. A long-term boyfriend, not a f*** buddy. I'd been single for a few years and was starting to get completely fed up and paranoid as to why I hadn't been asked out, so I went for it: I put word out among friends. Find me someone, please. Someone to shag, someone to kiss, someone to hang out with, and let's see what happens.

Well, it didn't. It was months of mismatch after mismatch after mismatch. Late nights with people who were nice, but no spark. Bad restaurants with people who live in another city with no plans to move. People who weren't interested in me. I cracked the s**ts and I took my earlier words back: no more blind dates.

Some would call it putting their foot down, mum's saying was "slamming the bags". I slammed the bags. That's it. I decided I would find someone myself in the time-honoured tradition of getting wasted at a terrible bar, accidentally shagging someone, and occasionally you want to do it again often enough that you wake up boyfriend and girlfriend.

I found myself just a week later at another blind date. In a rather obviously ham-fisted attempt at discretion, one of my sneaky friends had found this hottie she thought would be a goer. In light of the slamming bags, she didn't tell either of her intended victims and set it up as group drinks at a pub. Except that it was really obvious when she was making room for him to sit in a crowded pub. Right next to me. Then gushing about how awesome he was, I was, and how right we'd be for each other. Subtlety is not one of her strong points.

I decided that "yep, I'd tap that". He was very cute, confident, clearly unaware he was being set up, and we chatted away happily. Spearks were flying. Then he got this look on his face. A wiggly uncertain frown, then a real frown, then a snort, then he got up and without another word moved his chair to another section of the group and proceeded to chat up someone at the bar.

A quick mental rolodex of the conversation led me to the conclusion that no, I hadn't said anything to offend, or so outrageously stupid that he relegated me to the realm of a one-cell organism. No harm & no fail, but it was weird.

It hit me a full two weeks later when I was driving the car and, out of nowhere, his face popped into my mind. And I had the exact same set of facial expressions roll over my own face.

We'd already been together. Ten years earlier, on a week-long trip to Mt Bulla, we picked each other up and had a one-night stand that could only be described as "not one of the best or most naturally free-flowing" sessions culminating in arguments over a hairdryer and insults thrown from both sides before he stormed off in a huff into the snow, with very wet (and soon to be icy) hair.

Lucky for him, he realised before I did, as I would have totally shagged him again.

Have you ever been on a blind date? How did it go?

Row is on the wrong side of 35 and her leisure time is taking up with attempts to make the perfect gin & tonic, eating fabulous food, blogging about sex toys, and trying to get fitter so she can keep eating cheese. She's worked in marketing since dinosaurs roamed the earth and is the owner and blogger for Passionate Jade, a premium online adult toy store.

17 January 2013

Photo Thursday: Pigment

Pigment

Art stores in Tokyo kick arse.  Floors and floors of art materials make me drool and only the lack of space and money prevent me from buying everything.

15 January 2013

Truth, Dare and... Hildred Billings!

Since I've just released The Bad Girls' Club, a story all about fun and exciting dares, I wanted to find out the truth about dares.  Over the next few weeks, find out about some awesome women and their dares - the funny, the sexy, the downright embarassing.

First up is Hildred with a story I can well imagine, knowing Japan and the way Japanese people can be. 


Don't know if this really counts since I wasn't technically the person dared to do something, but here goes!

About a year ago I was spending the evening in Japanese lesbian bar with a good (Japanese) friend of mine. It was the second bar of the night for us, and at that point we were pretty damn tired since we were waiting for 4am to come so the trains would start running again.

Well, we were in this bar, not having the best time ever since it was loud and we didn't know anyone (aside for the super friendly drunk girl who kept telling us what a good lay she was - not with curry breath you aren't, sorry.) Friend started nodding off at the bar and I was about to suggest we go somewhere else when three young women come stumbling in already drunk off their asses. They were rowdy as hell but at least presented some form of entertainment in their shenanigans. Their favorite thing to do was tequila shots and dare each other to do things. (It seemed that whoever was last putting their glass down after a shot was the "loser.")

Well, since I was the only foreigner in the whole bar, they decided "LOSER HAS TO MAKE OUT WITH THE FOREIGNER." (No, they didn't ask me. Not that they had to. I was pretty damn lonely.) My friend was beside herself in scandal and the drunk woman who was The Best At Sex You Guys Seriously was jealous as hell, but I was too tired to care and just said "SURE. WHATEVER."

So these women do their shots and the one nearest me loses. She's half mortified, half intrigued, and I tell her in my best sleepy/half tipsy Japanese that she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to. But she says "NO. I WILL. I WILL DO IT. I WILL MAKE OUT WITH YOU IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY." So while my friend whips out her phone to take a picture (thanks, Marina, wherever you are) I'm about two seconds way from finally getting to lock in lips in Japan.

And then she changes her mind and goes to make out with her friend instead. Needless to say, I was a tad crestfallen.

Okay, I was really sad.

Two days later I flew home to America and that is still one of the first memories I get of Japan. Right up there with having three heat strokes and buying like 500 CDs from Bookoff. Good times in Ni-chome A+ would recommend to lesbians everywhere.

Hildred Billings is a Japanese and Religious Studies scholar who has spent her entire life knowing she would write for a living someday. She has lived in Japan a total of three times in three different locations, from the heights of the Japanese alps to the hectic Tokyo suburbs, with a life in Shikoku somewhere in there too. When she's not writing, however, she spends most of her time talking about Asian pop music, cats, and bad 80's fantasy movies with anyone who will listen...or not.

Her writing centers around themes of redemption, sexuality, and death, sometimes all at once. Although she enjoys writing in the genre of fantasy the most, she strives to show as much reality as possible through her characters and situations, since she's a furious realist herself.

Currently, Hildred lives in Oregon with her cat, with dreams of maybe having another human around someday. 


Want to get Hildred's writing on your kindle, here's a good place to start:


"Daisuki." (Lesbian Erotic Romance) (Ren'Ai Rensai #1)

Aiko and Reina have been together for almost 20 years, yet one thing remains unsaid between them: "Daisuki," or, "I love you." As they approach their anniversary, their relationship comes to an impasse as Aiko the Japanese housewife begins demanding "I love you" with a side of marriage and romance.

But Reina doesn't understand complex concepts like "love" or other heavy emotions. She's spent years supporting her girlfriend via a soul-sucking salary job and tending to their mutual needs in the bedroom. Isn't that sufficient? In a culture demanding Reina choose between the "feminine" and the "masculine" worlds, it's bad enough she's trying to find her role without Aiko adding extra pressure.

Some words need not saying, but "I love you" is about to destroy a relationship already surviving strange side-lovers and even stranger exploits.

13 January 2013

What Are You Looking At? Weekly Link Roundup!

I haven't had much time for web surfing this week since I started back in full time work.  Yikes, you forget how time consuming that is.  I've been coming home from work brain-dead and ready to flake.

Still here are some fun things to think about.  What have you been eyeing off this week? 







When it comes to me and polka dots, maybe obsession isn't too strong a word.  So you can imagine my level of SQUEE when I saw this quilt cover available at Ikea.  And trust me, I don't squee lightly!  The only thing is, if I have too many dots, I start losing my clothes and accessories!



Note: techically, they aren't polka dots.  Am I the only person in the world that gets insanely ranty about people using the term "polka dots" incorrectly?  Polka aren't just any random dots! In fact the defining quality is that they aren't random.  They are evenly sized and spaced.  I get 150% more ranty when it's a fashion retailer.  If they don't understand polka dots, I can't shop with them.

And that's it.  Not even a link roundup, just a link.  I'm sure next week I'll have more time and energy to think about things other than napping!

11 January 2013

Press

A few exciting things this week:


I might need to start a press page!  Also, starting this week, I have an awesome new series of posts starting up. 


10 January 2013

Photo Thursday: Osaka

Osaka
Showa era Osaka

I love Osaka.  While the rest of Japan worries about being too hade (gaudy), Osaka embraces it.

08 January 2013

It was the best of samurai, it was the worst of samurai

Last year I went through a phase of reading samurai novels and I said I'd do review of them, so here it is, the best and worst.

Note: these are in order of last read since that's the easiest way for me to rank them.

The Concubine's Tattoo - Laura Joh Rowland

The author has a series of books following the same samurai detective.  In this one he marries a woman who has been raised like a boy- ie. she can use a sword and is opinionated.  She, of course, wants to help her husband with his murder investigation.  That has the potential to be really annoying but it is handled in an okay manner.

The historical details didn't bug me and the characters seemed true to their times.  I did work out the mystery way before the end though. A decent read and I'd buy other books in the series.

The Shogun's Daughter - Robert Ames Bennett

I started reading the Shogun's Daughter then stopped because the main character is so pompous and full of himself. Then I decided to give it another go and found it quite hilarious. I'm sure if it's meant to be that way though. The main character is like a piss-take on all those heroes of White Man goes to Japan novels. Of course, he's there to save the poor, naive Japanese from themselves even if they are too ignorant to know what's good for them. And, of course, the Japanese women swoon over his awesome White Man-ness.

Samurai's Apprentice - David Walters

First in a series of books about a peasant boy who becomes an apprentice to a samurai.  Pretty much ticks off all the boxes of a samurai novel - stuff about honour and bravery and bushido code and swords etc.  When I was having a hellish commute to work last year, I finished off all three books in the series so definitely an easy read.


Death at the Crossroads - Dale Futani

Again, a pretty standard samurai read about a ronin who solves mysteries.  This series has an over-riding arc as he is also looking for the daughter of his seige lord who was abducted when her parents were killed. Also a very easy read and entertaining.  I think the covers for this series let it down.

The Masuda Affair - I. J. Parker

It'd read a lot of good reviews of this book so figured it was worth a read but was disappointed. I guess if you don't know much about Japanese history, it would be a good read but to me there were so many distractingly out of place details that I didn't really enjoy it. It felt the writer had taken a story originally set in the West (England maybe) and changed a few details to make it Japan instead. For example, one of the characters kisses a woman's hand. Is he French or Japanese? Women wear voluminous gowns! The main character is taken to court by a peasant when, in Feudal Japan a samurai could actually have killed him with no repurcussions.

But, more than these minor details, the main character has a very Western/Christian code of morality. Maybe there is something in the earlier books in the series to explain his mindset but, since I've not read those books, it struck me as strange and out of place.

 I had no interest in reading this series further.

The Samurai and the Long-Nosed Devils - Lensey Namioka

This is actually a young adult novel but one of the better samurai novels I've read.  What sets it apart is that instead of telling you details in an info dump, it includes in context.  I get a bit sick of writers who have to explain every Japanese thing (eg. tatami mats) when they mention them.  

This is the story of two ronin who get work as bodyguards for a Portugese household.  It includes a murder mystery and is pretty damn funny.  I'd have read more of this series if it were available on kindle.

Osai's Razor - Okamoto

The story of a woman who's father is murdered by a strange samurai who then takes over their dojo.  She asks him to teach her kendo but wants to exact revenge, however she can't kill him because he performs jedi mind tricks on him.  I don't quite buy it.  If a dude anally raped me, I'd gut him like a fish.

It's not a bad read.  It does have a lot about kenjitsu and bushido and zen stuff so if you like that kind of thing, it's a good read.


06 January 2013

What Are You Looking At? Weekly Link Roundup!

It's been so hot here in Melbourne this week, I've tried to avoid that horrible place known as Outside.  No avoiding this week though as I start my new job.  I'll have to get back into the habit of getting dressed, leaving the house and talking to people.

Here are some of the places I've been checking out online this week:


  • Mucky Melbourne explores the steamy underbelly of Melbourne history.  I love reading about the history of porn cinemas and strippers in this town and hopefully there will many more stories to come.
  • Since I've been working on a raunchy story set in an ice cream van this week (summer does that to you), I needed to research - the van bit if not the raunch.  These vintage ice cream vans are as cute as can be.  I want one.
  • Neon signs of New York are awesome.  I love signs.  I love the lit up city at night in Tokyo.  I especially love Art Deco signs though. I must go to New York one day.
  • I really wanted to not like the movie, Sakuran, when my friend recommended it to me but it's such a beautiful movie.  And it stars Anna Tsuchiya who is totally hot.
  • For those new year's resolutions, how to lose weight the sparkly way is worth a read.  Who doesn't want to incorporate sparkly shoes, champagne and dirty dancing into their weight loss routine?

05 January 2013

Size isn't important

Years ago, I worked with a woman who read a lot.  Even more than me.  We were talking about books one day and she told me that she much preferred thicker books because you got more value for your money.

That weirded me out.  What an arbitory way to select books to read!

But then you see the huge block-buster novels and realise a lot of people must think like that.  They say they want a book you can sink your teeth into but to me, that's a book bursting with ideas, not words.

Lately, I've been hanging around a lot of places where readers like to go online.  Places like Goodreads.  I've found that idea of paying for the number of words popping up again.  Maybe it's more important in genre fiction, where a lot of books have the same themes and plot structure.  If you have the choice between two similar books then I can see that you'd go for the one with more meat to it, maybe.

Maybe my aversion to thick books isdue to laziness.  Books are heavy.  Well they were, in paper format. 

Then there is the fear that a big, thick book has lots of description.  I hate description.  Hate reading it, hate writing it. The only time I like it, is when it's short and clever.  A well turned sentence rather than pages of detail.  I assume a smaller book is going to be more succinct.

I don't like a lot of genres that tend towards thick volumes (and even then volumes that are part of a series).  I don't read fantasy or sci-fi or that kind of thing.  I do sometimes like a long, winding family saga that stretches over a few generations.

What about you?  Is size a consideration when you buy a book?  What makes you buy/download a book?



02 January 2013

Photo Thursday: A-Z Cafe, Omotesando

Installation at A to Z Cafe, Omotesando - Yoshimoto Nara
Installation at A to Z Cafe, Omotesando


My favourite cafe in Tokyo is A to Z Cafe in Omotesando.  I'm not a person who raves about a cafe based on their decor.  To me, the main criteria for a good cafe is good coffee.  That's what they are about, after all.

However, A to Z Cafe has a freaking amazing decor.  Featuring the work of Japanese artist, Yoshimoto Nara, A to Z makes you happy just being there. Not only are his drawings displayed around the cafe but there is a reconstruction of an artist's workshop in the middle of the cafe.  I love the way you feel like you are getting a sneak peek into Nara-san's life with details down to the coffee cup on the desk and the half-finished drawings.

But say you hate art, that's okay too because the views of the city are also magical.

Now, the most important thing - the coffee.  It's good.  Not cheap but you get a proper coffee and a proper coffee in Toyko is a joy to find.

I've only been there for lunch.  The dinner menu seems to feature mainly Western or Westernised food but the lunch set menu is a Japanese meal.  They have two choices - fish or meat and it comes with all the extras including sashimi and the best rice I've ever tasted.

If you are ever in Tokyo, definitely give it a try.

Lunch at A to Z Cafe
Lunch at A to Z Cafe

Edit: I just realised.  It's only Wednesday today.  Oops.

01 January 2013

Little Raven

Little Raven have an extract from The Bad Girls' Club up on their blog today.  Woohoo!

They also have all kinds of other tasty treats so check them out.