Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Life on the Floor:2 Mushi-atsui

The month of August is hot and steamy in Japan.  Humidity is high and so are temperatures.  The Japanese word for this is "mushi-atsui."  At the end of August, which is rapidly approaching, summer is giving a last gasp with temperatures soaring and everybody -- and everything -- dripping.  There's good news, though.  In my experience, on September 1 precisely, the national thermostat will drop ten degrees.  The humidity is already abating (unless it rains, which it is predicted to do a few more times before August mercifully ends.)
The only way to counter this -- besides staying in air-conditioned spaces -- is to go to the beach and that's where I've been going.
The sand is silver, flecked with gold.  The gold flakes rise in the water of the surf, tossing and tumbling in the waves.  The water is warm.  Even though it's early, the water on Chigasaki's south beach is warm with the occasional undercurrent of cool lifted up as the tide recedes.
People bring tent-like shelters to shield them from the pounding sun.  People wear sun-protective swimwear, and though people do swim, most do so in short bursts, preferring to sit in the surf playing with children, floating on various kinds of inflatables and rafts.  Outside the official swimming area, some snorklers look for shellfish and fish around anchored swim tubes.  Further out, the commercial fishing boats circle the islets and reefs in search of the day's catch.
I float, I bask, I enjoy.
Birds circle.  Sea Hawks search for underwater prey.  Is there a character up there?
I'll be back tomorrow.
By the end of next week, the people, I'm told, will vanish as the summer holiday season comes to an official end.

Pictures will follow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Life on the Floor

Moving halfway across the world is tough.  Getting settled is tougher.  I am having huge internet/computer problems.  The Web isn't really all that World-Wide. Each country has gatekeepers and challenges.  Languages switch (who would have guessed?)  Passwords are rejected, though they were all changed, on demand by the on-line providers, before I left and now neither the new ones nor the old ones work.  Starting over.  Good thing I read some Japanese and am pretty fearless about pressing buttons. I also keep written records, like any and everybody else with sense, and that sometimes helps.  I've been here just over two weeks.  I still like it, despite the frustrations.

I have finally managed to log in here.  I thought it was MAGIC!  And it was.  My Apple products are supposed to cross-reference and keep all my passwords safely.  Not my fault, really.  In The Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy's universe, many things operate via magic.  Why should I expect magic to vanish in Japan?  Here in Chigasaki, Apple Magic does not uniformly apply.

It's also tough getting used to life on the floor, not just for a few weeks, but for, if I'm lucky, the foreseeable future.

Traditionally, for reasons covered in The Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy books, and others, the Japanese lifestyle is mostly lived on the floor, with things brought out as needed, then stored away for a nice, clean look.  There are tables, and sometimes floor chairs, but even now what furniture there is rests very close to the ground.  In fact, right now, I am sitting in a floor chair, cross-legged, with my computer resting in my lap.

This poses problems for a stiff American.  I'm working at flexibility, because this isn't going to change.  Yes, once my residency visa is approved, I'll buy some furniture, but for now I am staying with a friend and furniture isn't a priority -- she's flexible!  When my visa comes through and I get my own place, furniture will be high on the list.

This move would be much harder on anyone who hadn't spent significant time in Japan and didn't know what to expect.

While I'm neither weeaboo nor Japanophile, Japan remains my quirky and eccentric friend who puts a slightly different spin on the universe than the one Westerners like me are used to.  I like the Japanese way, and I like being and living here.  So far.

Stay tuned, now that I can get in here, for more about life on the floor!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


As I get ready to leave Seattle for Japan, where I plan to live for the foreseeable future, I am pleased to see that the Internet is setting forth to do things I, living out of a carry-on and freakishly busy, can't manage, I find the first professional review of Book 4 has come in.   And it's a good one!

Here it is:

Title: The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book 4: Uncle Yuta has an Adventure
Author: Claire Youmans
Genre: Fiction/General Fiction (including literary and historical)
Audience: Young Adult
Word Count: 72,300
Plot: Youmans seamlessly introduces readers to her characters in this fourth installment of the series. At times, there are seemingly random details and obvious foreshadowing, but overall the author has created a fantastical universe that readers want to learn more about.
Prose: The author's attention to detail, especially concerning food, is remarkable and noteworthy. The concise way chapters end keeps readers engaged. A splash of humor lends a personal tone to the writing.
Originality: The author's inclusion of art and photographs of artifacts is unique and adds credibility to her otherwise fantastical story. The series is reminiscent of other fantasy series, but still manages to feel fresh.
Character Development: Youmans creates realistic and relatable characters that make the book's supernatural elements seem natural. Readers will be engaged by the characters stories and interested in finding out what happens next.
Blurb: Youman's novel will delight fans of art historical fiction and fantasy alike. 
  • Plot/Idea: 7
  • Originality: 7
  • Prose: 8
  • Character/Execution: 8
  • Overall: 7.50
Report Submitted: July 26, 2017

You are welcome to use this Critic’s Report as promotional copy or as a blurb to promote your book. Please note: When attributing quotes from this Critic’s Report, you must credit The BookLife Prize.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

When I was 9... (Getting out of Dodge)

When I was nine, my family spent a summer in Big Bear Lake, California.  I'm not sure why.  My parents hadn't yet bought their house in Cannon Beach, Oregon and we spent several summers in different rented seasonal houses, I suppose while they looked for the best place.  We actually lived in Seattle, so southern California was very far away.

I loved it there.  A lake!  A BIG lake.  Ski areas!  RIGHT there!  Horses!  All year round.  Winter, with snow.  Yay, snow!  Not much rain.  Sunshine, most of the time!  I thought at the time one would be hard-pressed to find a better place to live.

I've been living in Big Bear for almost three years now, and soon, very soon, I will leave.  My nine year old self was quite right.  It's a great place to live.  The climate is just about perfect.  I can see the lake from my desk, and I can launch my kayak with its little sail just about everywhere.  I have had the wonderful privilege of teaching skiing and boating with USARC.  The rewards of adaptive sports are huge.  If you can, see about participating.  Best people in the world.  It's a joy to work with everyone involved.  I will try to find another adaptive program, and should I return, I'll sign up again.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series is set in Japan, Meiji-era Japan, to be precise.  The books require incredible quantities of research, and I've done a lot of traveling.  Air travel these days is extremely expensive or uncomfortable, or both -- and I do everything I can to be as comfortable as possible.  On the ground, Japan's public transportation is so good, I would not want a car unless I lived where I had to have one.  

Now, several things came to a head, and I have the chance to go live in Japan for anywhere from three months to forever.  Immigration laws are complex and arcane everywhere, and Japan is certainly no exception.  There is a residency visa I qualify for, according to the immigration attorney I have found, but I have to go in on a tourist visa and apply once there.

So...I am going.

I am sad to leave this wonderful place.  Because of various factors, I have sold my house, and will become officially homeless tomorrow.  But when I return, I can come back here, get another house, or maybe a condo, and return to adaptive sports and watching the lake while I research and write.

I will continue to work on The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, and I plan to live on an ocean beach not too far from Tokyo.  I will stay with a friend until the residency visa comes through, and then find a place of my own.  I will be close to Nichiren Shoshu's Head Temple, Taiseki-ji, and the compelling force of Buddhism that first drew me to Japan.  The skiing's a little farther away, but that's manageable.  Especially if I can find an adaptive sports program to join.

The books are now sold around the world, and it's possible there may be a Japanese translation in the works.  Except for iTunes, which I can't quite figure out, they're everywhere, and this time, available to bookstores readily through Ingram, which is also global.

Life is good.

Book 4 Links:

Amazon for Kindle and hardcopies:


B & N (Nook) and hardcopies:

Ask your physical retailer and your library to get them:  if you ask, they will!  They're in the Ingram catalog, which they all have.  And please write a review.  If you have a blog or other public forum, contact me directly and you can have a review copy.  Please send links for reviews.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A wonderful feeling/call for reviewers

It's not right yet, but it is now possible to get The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure at Amazon.

In Trade Paperback -- hard copy:
TGSB 4 Trade Paperback

In Kindle Format:
TGSB 4 Kindle edition

As you've no doubt noted, getting this book out has been very difficult, and it's not quite done yet.  It'll take a while to appear in Nook, Kobo and iBooks, but it will.  My views on why this continues to be so difficult have previously appeared, and I haven't changed my mind.

Having it actually out and available for review and purchase is an UTTERLY WONDERFUL FEELING, though.  This book looks great!  It's a great story, too.  Please check it out.

I can provide semi-advance review copies IF you have a blog or other public forum in which to review.  Let me know.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, the option of independent publishing was a new, bright, shiny good thing.  Part of the reason that was true was the advent of publishing in eformats for ereaders.  That was available through, no surprise, Amazon.   There were also pay-for-play bound book publishers that were truly vanity presses.  Lots of them, generating very few sales.  They are great for their niche markets -- those who want to publish memoirs and poetry, mostly, and realize that their market is very small.

Then CreateSpace came along, from, guess who?, Amazon.  This allowed wider distribution, but again for a niche market, because actual bookstores couldn't order without a lot of fuss and bother that they're not willing to undertake.

Now we have Ingram/Spark, which allows distribution through the Ingram catalog, the one that all retailers have right there.  Of course, their site is un-user-friendly and they charge -- more pay-to-play.  They are reputed to have better physical retailer distribution and better international distribution.

And there are still vast numbers of firms marketing their services, again without real distribution or marketing options.

What to do?

I have no idea.  After spending days trying to deal with Amazon/CS and trying to figure out IS's impossible website, I think I can say The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an adventure is OUT, and will appear at Kobo, iTunes and all the other eformat retailers at some point.  Soon, I hope.  Kindle Version is here.  The hard copy version should appear linked to it shortly. t Ingram print versions will appear soon.  A physical book store will have their catalog.  I can't find it online.  Maybe you can.

This utter BS is STILL going on.  I now think of publishing any more books (and there will be several just in this series) posthumously and letting my heirs handle all this nonsense.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Uncle Yuta Has An Adventure is OUT -- sort of

This is what they call a "soft launch."  In fact, it's almost mushy.  There's no printing a thousand copies and then sending out a bunch for reviews, do a lot of advertising, and then do a "hard launch" with a lot of publicity and available reviews, and deliveries to brick and mortar stores.

Nope.  Not any more.  It's Print on Demand, so you only get copies once the title is all set up and released, and THEN you can do the other things.  It would be great if it worked.

Ingram/Spark has the title ready to roll.  I've even ordered some copies for August Birthday Week and publicity purposes.  It's quite possible to order a hard copy, and also to get eformats through them or your regular retailer -- though that might take a few days.  The idea is the IS has better international distribution, so getting all e-formats from all distributers should be easy! CreateSpace and Kindle theoretically have the best domestic distribution.

BUT THEY ARE ALL SCREWED UP and I've spent the last hour and a half trying to unscrew it.  We'll know in a couple of days if it is possible to unscrew CS and Kindle, though Kindle e-copies are, I think, best as I can check it, available right now.

SO...this book follows the model of increasing complexity as the characters grow up and move on in life, despite their special abilities and the way those handicap them.  This one is very exciting!  By 1871, things had changed yet again and continued to change on a daily, even hourly basis.  Women's rights, surpressed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, come to the fore.  There is a brand-new passenger train from Yokohama to Tokyo, plus the freight trains used for mining in Kyushu.  Industrialization and the West's fascination with all things Japanese have led to huge industries supplanting artisans, indentured labor and bad, sometimes brutal, treatment of laborers.  The entire economy has changed.  Japan is showing itself able to meet and surpass the West in technology and take its place as an equal on the world stage.

On top of that, the Meiji regime's goal of meeting with the West as an equal leads to a level of national unification never before seen.  The first of several educational conferences entirely reform the educational system to this end, and Yuta-sensei will be there, in the Eastern Capital of Tokyo, now full of Western dressed people, the new jinrickishaws, carriages and even horse-drawn street cars.  So much to see, so much to do.  Confusion, of course, abounds.

Even among the dragons, coping with all the changes in their own lives and their intersection with humans is a hard row to hoe.  Now little yokai appear, little mischief-making beings who want -- what?

Please do read this book.  It's really fun. I hope you can exercise a little patience with the distribution system for a few days.  This era exemplifies that truth can be ever so much stranger than fiction, and so it is also in the way the current publishing system is working -- or not.