Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Take Over Wednesday - Changing it up

It's Wednesday once more and I know I usually let Adam take over the blog to speak about his interesting adventures of living in Japan, but I thought I'd be a nice sister and give him the week off. I think he deserves it since he's given me the final revisions for Shinigami Eyes and has been a pain-in-my-butt... I mean, very helpful and critical art director who's constantly on my back about how to fix the graphics that will accompany the story.

So, this week I've decided to share a few of my experiences in Japan. Yes, I have been to Japan twice. Both times in winter and going from the heatwaves of Australia to freezing temperatures in Tokyo really is a big adjustment.

Being in a foreign country really can be quite intimidating and anxious and exciting, all at the same time. Some times it didn't matter about language barriers, for instance all the trains in Tokyo read in Japanese and English, and most restaurants have food displays in their windows so if you don't know what to order you can easily point at it. Some times language barriers as a big issue, like trying to post a box of completely random trinkets (aka toys and hotel shampoos... yes, I stayed at the Disney hotel and had to collect the bottles :p) home to Australia. I was lucky I had a brother who was having a nice 30 minute conversation with the clerk.

It wasn't just Adam that helped over in Japan though, and I would recommend this to anyone who wants to visit a foreign country, I was able to find tour guides that were able to take us off the beaten track and show us things that we wouldn't have found out by ourselves. I owe some of my research to these tour guides as they took us karaoking and down back streets of Tokyo where I could see the houses and make notes.

I have tried to learn Japanese, but I don't have the time or patience to sit down and devote myself to another language with everything else going on in my life. One day I will learn it though - that's my promise - and the next time I visit Japan I would like to be able to pick up some words. I'm sure Adam would like that, then when we go to the theme parks or movies he won't have someone sitting beside him going "what just happened?" or "what did she say?"... Although he does the plot summary of movies quite well (I've seen 2 movies in Japanese theatres... that's without subs or dubs and he's kept me up-to-date with the action for most of the movie).

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shinigami Eyes Cover Reveal






Today I'm stoked to be able to finally get the chance to reveal the cover, created by the very talented Silvia Paoletta over at Dark World Books, for my newest novel, Shinigami Eyes.

This novel is very special to me, as it's my first official horror novel, a genre I'm very passionate about (ask anyone who knows me... my favourite character from my childhood was Freddy Kruger), but this is the first novel that I have the pleasure of introducing my co-author, and wonderful brother, Adam Smith. 

And, now on to the reveal.



Most children hope to grow out of their imaginary friends.

17-year-old Rin Waters’ only hope is that hers doesn’t kill someone, especially when said imaginary friend puts a boy in a coma. Finding herself shipped half-way around the world—to Japan, of all places—she is forced to live with grandparents she hasn’t seen for ten years and a cousin she can’t even remember.

Rin would rather just forget about the one night that ruined her life and pretend her imaginary friend doesn’t exist—if it was only that easy. When manga-obsessed otaku, Matt, won’t stop pestering her about a manga that sees the future and the tragic accident she’ll be involved in if she doesn’t listen to him, pretending becomes quite a challenge.

Suddenly mysterious accidents begin to happen to students in her school, and Rin has to wonder what length Matt is willing to go to prove his manga is real. Is it all a sham or is there really something that wants to see Rin and her new friends dead?
Coming October 31st, 2014
Add Shinigami Eyes to your Goodreads list!

I have enjoyed working on this with my brother, even though he can be very critical sometimes... he wanted everything to be just right, and I can't wait for its release... I have a special announcement coming soon regarding the release, as well as I've been working hard with my artist sister (yeah, very creative family) to create a special giveaway that you don't want to miss.
Let me know what you think about the cover in the comments below.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Freaky Friday: Hanako-san

When you think of ghost stories, do you instantly think of dark and stormy nights, deserted farm houses, old manors on the moor? What about in the toilets? Today, in the lead up to Shinigami's cover reveal on Monday (ooh, how exciting), and its release in just over a month, I am taking you back to Japan to tell you a very popular ghost story.

During my research into all the wonderfully creepy stories that fill Japanese urban legends I have noticed that it's not uncommon for a ghost to haunt the toilets. And let me tell you, unlike the lovely Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter series, these ghosts will usually end up finding the most bloody way possible to kill you. Yeah, what a way to die, on the toilet.

Hanako-san is even worse. She is said to haunt Elementary School toilets.

Hanako is the Elementary Schools version of Bloody Mary. Her origins vary from an abused girl whose abusive parent chased her down and killed her in the washroom to a young girl who committed suicide in the toilet, while there are stories that say she was a victim of a school that burnt down due to the air raids during the war. But she always said to haunt stall number 3 of the 3rd floor bathroom.

It is said that you can summon her by knocking on her stall three times and asking "Hanako-san are you there". If she is there, she will reply in a quiet girl's voice, "Yes I am" and the stall will open up a bit. When the student investigates they will find the ghost of little Hanako wearing a red skirt with her hair done up in an old style bun. She is said to grab the student and drag them down the toilet to hell.

Since Hanako-san is a widespread urban legend, there are variations to the ending depending on what region of Japan you are in. Some ending is that a giant hand will grab you and drag you to hell, another story is that you will find a three-headed lizard mimicking the girl and will eat you. Then there is the least cruel one where you won't find the ghost, you'll just find a bloody hand print on the stall's door.

Isn't that enough to make you never want to go to a public toilet again... oh, but wait, there are actually worse stories out there than Hanako. But I guess, that will have to wait for another time.

Do you know any ghost stories? Are you a believer or a skeptic when it comes to ghosts and the unexplained?




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Take Over Wednesday: Strange food in a strange land

Hi, it's Adam here again. Cheree has let me once again take over her blog to share a bit about life in Japan.

Living in Japan you tend to run across some pretty weird stuff, especially when food is concerned. Being such a small country the local diet consists primarily of rice and fish. Meat is pretty hard to come by, so every month around payday folks here have 肉晩 (nikuban) which is a special night when they have a special meal of meat. Being from Australia, a country notorious for high prices and high meat consumption, I tend to buy meat whenever I feel like it. Telling them you come from a country that doesn't eat rice and has meat every night will guarantee you blow some minds.

If I have a choice I tend to avoid some of the more funky food stuffs, although I have eaten horse (when in Rome and whatnot), there are times when avoidance is not an option. One of those times is 給食 (kyuushoku), school lunches. I teach in elementary schools so it's a lottery what I'll get for lunch. Some days, it's tasty delicious curry, other days unidentifiable strips of what I'd assume is some kind of plant, strange but still edible. But then comes the days when you strike out.

Something that is infamous among foreigners is the dreaded natto. Officially called 'fermented soybeans', but personally I call them 'rotted soybeans'. With a smell and texture like dog vomit, you can't fault people for disliking the stuff. I can eat it if I have to, but once you get past the horrific smell and spiderweb like stickiness the flavour is kind of meh. Apparently, you can get used to it, but I don't see why you would.

And then you come to what I like to call the 'sadist specials', dishes that push me to the very limit, that given a choice I'd walk away and never look back. One such dish consisted of whole small fish deep fried and served up, heads and all. Out of politeness I pushed past my squeamishness and tried to eat what I was given, but after a few bites I made the mistake of looking at my food. Once I saw the eggs, I knew I was in for a big old plate of NOPE. I've only run across it once since (today, unfortunately) and this time they didn't even bother battering them. Yeah, not something I look forward to.

I'm not that big on eating food that I can still see the animal in. When I see whole tentacles thrown into the dish I tend to want out immediately. I guess I just have too active an imagination to deal with it. At one time I was invited to a 飲み会 (nomikai), a drinking party, with the teachers and the featured centre piece on the table was a whole gutted fish that was still twitching. The teachers all found it funny when I refused to look at it, commenting on how I'm such a gentle soul just because I didn't want a gasping fish staring me in the face while I was eating. They found it neat, I found it incredibly disturbing.

There are many foods here that you'd never think edible elsewhere, like drinkable yogurt, always next to the milk in the exact same packaging, how I hate it so, but then you have the food that is simply amazing. As I mentioned last time, Karaage-bou are simply awesome. You just need to take the good with the bad. Somethings you'd think you'd hate, like jellyfish, but in turn find you actually like. You just need to keep an open mind and try as much as you can.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Gifts She Carried Tour



Welcome to my stop on the What Gifts She Carried tour hosted by Dark World Books.  Click HERE to see the full blog tour schedule!


What Gifts She Carried
(The Grave Winner #2)
Leigh Baxton just wants to pick up the pieces of her life—if you could call it that—but someone keeps resurrecting the dead. These new zombies have a knack for spilling Leigh’s precious blood, something she was warned about by a certain pair of undead sorceresses.
Desperate to find out why they’re here so Leigh can put the nightmares behind her, she must learn more about the gifts she carries. With Tram’s training sessions and clues from her mom’s past, Leigh begins to piece together what she’s capable of.
Too bad there isn’t a Cliff’s Notes version to saving the world.
The zombies have teamed up with followers of the darkest sorceress who ever lived, and they’ll play a wicked game until she’s freed from her prison inside the earth. When the battle to the death begins, Leigh must rely on friends, crushes, and even her enemies to win the war, but not the grave.
Amazon (Kindle) – Amazon (Paperback) – Barnes & Noble
Add What Gifts She Carried to your Goodreads list!
_________________________

About The Grave Winner (Book #1)
Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead — just like the prom queen did.
While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.
She should have listened.
Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.
With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.
Amazon US – Amazon UK
Buy your copy now at a very special price!
*OFFER VALID FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY*



My Review:
Leigh Braxton cannot catch a break. She just wants to get back to her normal life, but unfortunately that's not going to happen. What Gifts She Carried picks up right after where the Grave Winner left off, plunging Leigh and her friends right in the thick of the action again, facing more nightmarish situations and undead creatures than anyone should have to face. 
 
Lindsey R. Loucks has created another fast-pasted and thrilling read that will leave anyone sitting on the edge of their seats, wondering what is going to happen next. Leigh is a fantastic main character to follow through the story, and it's the fire she has to conquer this evil that makes her a force, as well as her friends who are willing to stand beside her.
 
With plenty of twists and turns, as well as lots of undead fiends out for Leigh's blood, this book is the perfect match for anyone who loves a good horror. Be warned, it might be best to consume this book with the lights on.
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Lindsey R. Loucks
Lindsey R. Loucks works as a school librarian in rural Kansas. When she’s not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she’s dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she’ll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize. She’s been with her significant other for almost two decades.
Website/Blog – Twitter – Facebook

Friday, September 5, 2014

Freaky Friday: Shinigami


Freaky Friday is a weekly segment where I explore different cultures ghost stories and monsters. With the release of Shinigami Eyes coming up in October, I have decided to choose another Japanese creature that keeps popping up from time to time. Shinigami.


Most people, especially those who are fans of manga or anime, would have heard the term Shinigami before. Shinigami are creatures that have been used in numerous animes/manga, one of the most popular being Death Note. And yes, I have watched all of the Death Note episodes (long live L :P) and I do know that they use a particular thing called 'Shinigami Eyes'. But there is a reason (non-Death Note related) that I chose that name.

So, what exactly is a Shinigami? The English translation of Shinigami means 'Death God', and the closest thing we have in the western culture that can represent a Shinigami is the Grim Reaper. Shinigami are gods that help to invite humans towards death. Sometimes the Shinigami are portrayed as skeletal creatures that cause accidents and deaths.

Since Shinigami are related to the Japanese culture, they are mostly seen in Japanese manga or anime. Death Note, Bleach, Soul Eater and Naruto are popular manga/anime that have used different depictions of the Shinigami.

Ooh, I will always love the Shinigami out of Death Note, with Ryuk being my favourite.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Take-over Wednesday: Japanese Conbini

Once again it's Adam here. Cheree's been very gracious to let me take over her blog once more to pass on a little bit about my life in Japan.

One of the best things about life in Japan are the コンビニ (Conobini). Convenience stores are serious business here. Family Marts grow like weeds here. You can't walk a block without running into a fresh one. There's nothing quite like the feeling of exploring the strange and unique food from your local conbini.

Australia doesn't really have convenience stores. The closest we have to them are the petrol stations where you can buy quick munchies along with your fuel. Over here petrol stations only sell fuel. This is made up for by the omnipresent conbini selling everything from snacks to hot food to beer (yes, even alcohol can be purchased at the local store) to workshirts to stationary. Pretty much anything you could want under one roof. Most places even rent videos. One thing I have discovered is that each store has different stock, so you can go to the exact same store around the block from each other and find something new in each place.

Conbini are an excellent place to practice your speaking ability. I was in one so often that the staff knew me and my order on sight. I got to chat with them plenty of times. There's usually someone happy to practice their English. When I had to move one guy that I'd spent a lot of time chatting to actually gave me a touching goodbye. I was actually a bit sad to go.

If you ever visit Japan I recommend trying as many things from the hot box near the registers as possible. You'll always find a tasty treat that'll have you going back for more. My personal favourite is the karaage bou, salty chunks of chicken on a stick. I usually end up eating three in one go. They're just so good.
 
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