story, science, technology and creativity


The meaning (and luck) of Miku Takeshita’s name

I’m neck-deep in Monster Matsuri after a FABULOUS Children’s Book Week (hello to everyone I met: thanks for being such great audiences!).

So…a short but sweet post on the meaning of Miku’s name (which, incidentally, was originally Aiko, or “love child”…)

Miku can be written using several different kanji:

美空 – Beautiful sky

美久 – Beautiful long-time

未来 – Future

美紅 – Beautiful bright-red

But which did I choose?
Well, the kanji you choose when naming a child can be used to direct the fortunes of that child, so it’s good to choose names that can be written using a lucky number of strokes. For example, the number 4 in Japanese can be pronounced ‘shi’, which also means ‘death’, so 4 is an unlucky number in Japanese (like 13 in Western cultures).

Luckily, none of the kanji combinations for Miku require 4 strokes.

However, it’s not as simple as that. There are all sorts of ways the different strokes can be combined. I’m no expert, but I wanted to do my best to give Miku a lucky name. This was my process:

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her last name only
For Miku, this is Takeshita (竹下), which requires 9 strokes to write. This is not a particularly auspicious number, but life-long luck is not determined by this number alone. Your total fortune can be influenced by the strokes in the rest of your name.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name only
This could be 12 (美久 or 未来), 17 (美空) or 18 (美紅). Fortunately for Miku, 17 and 18 are relatively lucky. Since this value influences Miku’s fortune in early life, I guess she doesn’t really need to have a lucky number here. Let’s face it, if your teacher is a nukekubi demon and your brother has been kidnapped, you’re not really off to an auspicious start.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in her first name and last name
This could be 21(竹下美久 or 竹下未来), 26(竹下美空) or 27(竹下美紅). Here 21 is a lucky number, which bodes well for Miku’s personal relationships.

– Count the sum of the kanji strokes in the last character of her family name and the first character of her first name
This is probably the most important number, and for Miku could be 12 (下美) or  8 (下未). Since 8 is a lucky number, and since the core of Miku’s fortune comes from this combination of characters, that left me with just one option:


However, even then there are some things to double check:

1) Are all the stroke counts for 竹下未来 either odd or even (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

2) Is the stroke count for her first name (未来) the same as for her last name (竹下) (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

3) Is the stroke count of any of her individual kanjis the same? (= bad luck)
No! YAY!

4) Is there some way Miku could write her name to give it her own special zing?
Yes! YAY!

And so that was it: Takeshita Miku is written 竹下未来 and means “Under-the-bamboo Future”. Which is a perfect name for Miku, since she carries so much hope for her family, and since her future is intertwined with the future of the world as we know it.

Good luck Miku!


I finished a second edit of The Filth Licker!

Woo hoo….   I’ve just send the latest version of Takeshita Demons II to my editor at Frances Lincoln Childrens Books, and I think it’s terrific! It was a rocking story even before Janetta gave me her feedback and ideas, and now, after a good going over complete with new exciting ideas, it’s even better than before.

What do you think? The Filth Licker
One major change, suggested by the sales team and prompted by Janetta, is the title. The working title was FORESTS AND FILTH LICKERS, but for reasons that will be apparent when you read it, we changed the title to THE FILTH LICKER. And I love it. Sometimes simple (if a little gross) is best.

And more great Takeshita Demons news:
, the artist behind the awesome cover for Takeshita Demons (and the manga-style art scattered throughout its pages) is working on more amazing art for The Filth Licker.  I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

And in techno-toy-joy news: We have an iPad!
And it’s soooooooooooooo cool. Fergus is already playing piano and flicking through photo albums. And his parents are pretty hooked too.

This, my friends, is more of the future than I ever thought I’d see. I had no idea things this cool already existed.

And guess what? I’d happily read a book or manuscript on this baby. They’re coming, people. The e-book, with all its  incredible potential (for rubbish as well as brilliance, just like the internet) is on its way. As writers and readers, we are so lucky to be around for this.

So what’s next?
Well, I have an itching. The first scene of Takeshita Demons III is an exciting one, and I can already see it unfolding. But first, some changes to the  plot outline are required, since some pesky characters (and yes, Alex and Cait: that means both of you!!) acted completely out of turn and didn’t stick to the script in The Filth Licker. Don’t you just love fiction!!


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Holidays, with baby


Fergus explores King Arthur's legendary birthplace

I am horribly behind in lots of things, but right up-to-date in playing with Fergus, hugging Doug and having new adventures.

How do you spell “hectic”?
We’ve had a fabulous, if often stressful, month

And guess what?

We made it! We’re back in Australia and still sane!

After a few days with family in Perth, we are now staying with family in rural WA and planning to stay with a third lot of family back in Perth later in the week. By the time we’re once again on our own as a new family, we’ll have spent five weeks living out of a suitcase with three-month-old Fergus. Yikes! But fun.

Super-stimulation for the super-baby Fergus_crashed out
Fergus has coped extraordinarily well with all the moves: driving, flying, packing, unpacking and even jetlag (he adjusted in about three days and last night slept 12 hours for the first time ever!)(YAY Fergus!!).

He has managed to sleep in all manner of places at all manner of times. Flying thousands of feet above the ocean in a nearly-too-short bassinette is perhaps the cutest of them all: I reckon being three months old is more luxurious than flying business class.

He hardly stirred all through both flights, and Emirates provided a show bag of baby goodies as well as toy puppets, nappies and jars of baby food (perhaps a better option than the croissant breakfast? ;-))

A tip to travelling parents (well, it worked for us anyway): we’ve kept Fergus’ lambskin rug and hand-knitted rabbit as constants: whichever strange cot or unusual place he finds himself in, Lamby and Bunnie are there, smelling oh-so-sweetly of homemade yoghurt.

And what about the writing?
I’ve been quietly stressing about my writing while we’ve been traveling. This is because

a) I’ve done nothing, which always makes things worse, and

b) finding the chunks of time I’m used to is proving to be difficult in terms of logistics and motivation. (It’s much more fun to sit and play with Fergus all day long :-).)

During these days of semi-procrastination, I forget how much I love to write, how the hours tick by in a creative blur, how satisfying it is to get down some good words, how thrilling it is to be on the track of a new and exciting story. I know once I get back into it I’ll be away and buzzing again.

Fergus_faces_the_futureLooking forward
The key to Fabulous Happiness over the next few months is going to be discovering a balance between baby, family, fiction writing for pleasure, and copy writing for cash (know anyone who needs a good copy editor? ;-)). Plus an effort to stay fit, see friends, find a new house and car and pay the bills. So how hard can it be?

Bring it on: changing countries and nappies, relying on self-employment and self-motivation, recreating ourselves and our life. What will be next?


A+++: a trilogy, a speaking engagement, Amazon

Takeshita Demons exists on Amazon! Like a real book!

You can pre-order Takeshita Demons on! Just like a real book! Argh!!

The last couple of days have been AMAZING, and for so many reasons:

1) Takeshita Demons is becoming more real!

Woo hoo! Takeshita Demons has a cover (thanks to everyone for your input: you picked a winner!) and its own ISBN! (978-1-84780-115-9, in case you were wondering)(Can I get this as a personalised bicycle plate?).

Plus it has its own webpage on Amazon UK where they say nice things about me (I’m always a sucker for that) and exciting things about Takeshita Demons (wow!).

And more incredibly, you can even pre-order Takeshita Demons! (Did you ever think it would become an actual *book*!? How surreal!)(Go on! Pre-order it, just for a laugh!).

2) Takeshita Demons is (very probably more-than-likely) going to be a trilogy!

We still haven’t put pen to contract paper yet, but Janetta and the Frances Lincoln sales team like my proposal for turning Takeshita Demons into a trilogy…. Books II and III promise to be super-exciting and will star my favourite yokai demon of all. I tried to include him in the first book but it just wasn’t right. So watch this space… I’ll be writing the sequel over the next few months… Thrilling but scary at the same time.

3) I made my first appearance as an author!

AnestofvipersOn Tuesday I was lucky enough to join a room full of librarians and some great speakers in Preston, a couple of hours north of London. It was particularly fab to meet Catherine Johnson, who lives just round the corner from me…what a coincidence! (Catherine had the room mesmerised with a reading from her latest book, A Nest of Vipers…check out her stuff!)

The day was organised by Jake Hope of the Youth Libraries Group to stimulate discussion of modern multicultural childrens writing, and to cast votes for the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway children’s book awards…

IT WAS FABULOUS! Not only did I get to talk to book lovers about books all day long, but I also did a presentation on Japanese yokai, Takeshita Demons, my take on multicultural writing, and more.  We also did some quick training exercises: how to identify and disarm a vampire (easy), a werewolf (more difficult), and a nukekubi (needs some work). It was good fun.

Plus, because uncorrected proofs of Takeshita Demons were available, I even did a few book signings, just like a real author. Woo hoo! Thanks to all those kind souls who asked me to sign their copies…I felt like a real celebrity 🙂

And for those of you who have no idea what an uncorrected proof is (like me just weeks ago):
They are draft versions of the book, where the pages are all bound and the text is laid out book-ily, with page numbers and indents and all that jazz. They’re designed to be a sneak preview of the book and as such aren’t final versions, but are pretty close. (I’m holding a Takeshita Demons uncorrected proof right now, and it feels like a real book to me!)

Contact the Frances Lincoln Books publicity team, supply chocolates, and mention you’d like a proof copy. You can get in touch with them at:

UK Publicity/Marketing

US Publicity/Marketing

(The chocolates are optional; I’m trying to start a new trend ;-))


Leaving London: Fergus pack your bags

We’re leaving London! The decision has been made.  The (one-way) flights have been booked.

Why? Oh, why?

Since Fergus was born our sense of time has changed. Each day seems more fleeting, perhaps because each day is such a significant portion of Fergus’ new life. Perhaps because the days seem to blur into a stream of spew, nappies and sleeps. (Perhaps because those sleeps are shorter than they’ve ever been before?)

But certainly something very strange has happened: Fergus is seven weeks old already, and yet surely it’s only been a couple of weeks? At this rate, in a flash of overgrown babygros and size-up nappies, he’ll soon be a year old and walking around, pushing mashed banana into his face, communicating in all-new grunts, well on his way to becoming a Real Boy. It’s happening way too fast.

Our Pre-Baby lives were plodding along at a very reasonable pace: we had lots of time to achieve our dreams and often did the things we talked about doing.

But Post-Baby is very different. Now it seems that time is racing, that we are getting older each day, and that if we don’t seize the moment and do the things we want to do… …things may change, time may pass, and we may miss out.

This Carpe Diem feeling has been strong since Fergus was born, and it’s led to…

The Big Decision

Right now, we’d rather be playing with Fergus and working on our dreams (writing great childrens books and crazy-fun computer programs). So it’s out with the “real jobs” and in with the family time. And that includes the grandparents, great grandparents, aunties, uncles, great and honorary aunties and uncles, the works. Plus bush, beaches, deserts… And more time to focus on creative projects that often get pushed to one side.  YAY!

So it’s back to Perth, Australia, for Fergus and his pals (that’s us). We leave October 31 (but we may well be back in June 2010, when the next Frances Lincoln award is announced and Takeshita Demons comes out…it’d be a shame to miss all the excitement!).

We’re sad to leave, but excited to be heading home after 2.5 years on the move. It’s been a long (and lovely) honeymoon. Doug’s last day was yesterday, so we’ve now got more than a month to play in London’s parks and fuel imaginations with London’s energy. Bring it on!