Sunday, November 18, 2018

Your Process and Mine

NaNoWriMo is a one month challenge for writers to write 50,000 words in a single month.  It's a kick in the pants for many people who have a hard time actually settling in to work on their writing on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

The goal is supposedly to complete a novel manuscript of 50,000 words in a single month, but a novel is usually 75,000 or so.  NaNo therefore produces a short first draft, which must then go through all of the remaining stages of book production -- resting, rewriting, resting, rewriting, betas, editors, copy editors, proofreaders, additional research and so on -- before it's ready to go.

I decided to use NaNoWriMo this year to get the first draft of Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series, Renko's Challenge, done by a specific date to coincide with friends coming to Japan so I can join them on a Buddhist pilgrimage and set myself up for a read-through and beginning of a rewrite during a planned ski trip (YES!) at the end of January.

Lately, I've been working on a marketing class because I'd like to be able to reach more of MY readers, because once people read my books, they're hooked and continue to read more. That's fun for me and fun for them!  I see plenty of posts from Facebook groups related to both these things.

However, I have found that both of these are causing me anxiety because I just don't work the way both groups encourage.  I don't like chasing daily word counts.  I don't want to produce five books a year. I prefer quality to quantity.  So far, I have always met my book-a-year production goals, and had very little trouble doing so.  A book a year is a reasonable goal for a series when the finished product is a damned good series that's going to last far beyond its release date.

I'm very much a self-starter.  I am not a "job" person.  I've always had businesses, and have no problem getting myself out of bed and getting myself going.  While law has many deadlines imposed from without, I am also good at imposing deadlines from within.

Until now.

Not only has life gotten in the way, like it sometimes does, but I find the very deadlines I have imposed are curtailing my production.

I need time to think.  I need time to walk in parks, visit museums, relax my brain and let the characters and story come forth.  They don't do that very well when I'm chasing word counts.  So I'm taking some time off.  I am going to honor MY process and keep my goal of getting Renko's Challenge out by Summer Solstice 2019.

I don't need competition or pressure from others to accomplish that.  I need my own cranky form of self-discipline that allows me to shut myself off and make my writing my first priority.  I need to recognize and honor my own process.

It's important, I think, for all writers to discover and honor their individual processes.   Your process is the one that produces your books -- not just some quota of words -- in a reasonable time frame with the level of quality you want.  This is the process, moreover, that makes you love what you do as a writer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Characters Making Magic

There are plotters -- writers who carefully plan every move in every chapter of their books.  When they sit down to write, they simply fill in the blanks.
Then, there are pantsers, as in "by the seat of their pants" writers.  These writers just start writing and see where the material leads them.
I'm a little bit of both.  I like knowing my first line.  I like knowing my last.  I like having a major dramatic arc for the book more or less in place.
With an ensemble cast that keeps growing, I know I'm going to have to have a dramatic arc of some sort for each of the major characters.  I often have stacks of scenes that play into these anticipated arcs playing around in my head, but I am not sure where they're going to be in the finished work.
All of these intertwine to make what I hope will be an interesting, entertaining, book.

I'm about 16,000 words into Renko's Challenge, Book 6 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. I am sort of doing NaNoWriMo in that I am making a major push to have the first draft finished about a month from now.  I'm very close to a quarter in, so I should be able to do this with the push of a solid deadline.
When I am writing draft, I can't do anything else.  If I take a few days off, I have to read from the beginning, just as I reread the entire series before I start thinking about the next book, what it's going to say and how it'll come together, and maybe even before I book a single research trip.

I do not keep frantic track of daily word counts.  I'd rather have quality than quantity.  50,000 words is a novella, not a novel, and I write novels.  A first draft is a FIRST draft and will need a great deal of revision before it's ready for betas, for editors and before it gets anywhere close to publication.  Still, NaNo has virtues, and the biggest one for me is setting a firm and solid deadline.  Another is clearing my schedule so I am interrupted as little as possible and can plow straight through.

Why do I do that?  Because that's when the magic happens.  Yesterday, two of my characters got to talking.  They were talking about something that they started discussing in Noriko's Journey, Book 5.  I meant for them to pursue the idea, but suddenly their conversation was setting up an aspect of future history I hadn't known how to handle.  When you write historical fantasy, sometimes actual history rears its ugly head and you have to get your characters through what would likely have been a highly unpleasant time for them.  It's still not going to be fun for anybody, but I now know how they'll all get through it.

Just for a bonus, I've been wondering what to do with some reappearing characters who don't quite fit into this particular year of this particular time period.

Now they do.

That's why I am a plotting pantser.  This one is going to be good.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

# 1 -- THANK YOU!

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Three Book Omni Edition is a box set containing Book One, Coming Home; Book Two, Chasing Dreams and Book Three, Together.

This book is in e-format only, available on Kindle at Amazon.

It was on special through today (depending on what side of the International Date Line you're on) and was also's Book of the Day on October 19.

And it hit number 1 in its category on Amazon, so it's an official #1 Best Seller.

Welcome to all the new readers!

You'll also enjoy Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure and Book 5, Noriko's Journey.  I am starting Book 6, working title Renko's Challenge, right now.  Have fun with this series -- I certainly am.

Thank you all so very much for making the Box Set a success.  Do enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them -- and do leave reviews.  Short is fine. Short is great. Besides providing feedback, something I value, reviews tell the computer innards at various retailers what to do -- something I have no control over.  I almost called them Ghosts in the Machine -- but I'd be a lot more comfortable with ghosts!

Again, thank you.  Keep flying!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Like a candle

I was fortunate enough to go on a pilgrimage to Taiseki-ji, the head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, of which I am a member, this last weekend.

It's always wonderful, but this was my first official Tozan as a Japanese member.  Tozan is the word we use for a pilgrimage.  It's also used for mountain climbing -- it means "to climb the mountain" and in the case of a pilgrimage, the mountain is enlightenment.  It's the only native-to-Japanese pun I know.

As so often happens, it was full of significant experiences.

Here's one.

Many Temples use oil candles.  They look like wax candles and have actual flames, but they are china, hollow, and filled with lamp oil into which a wick is inserted.  They pose much less risk of fire and don't spatter wax all over, either.

Evening Gongyo, the evening practice service, was at 5:30.  The Chief Priest, a small man who looks deceptively elderly and fragile, with Coke-bottle glasses, came bustling in at 5:26.  There are a few things that need doing to prepare for this service, including removing the morning water offering, lighting incense and lighting the candles.  Often there's an electric candle, too, that gets switched on with the lights, but this day, we were having oil candles, too.
He trimmed the wicks and refilled the candles, then he lit them.  The one on the right from my view didn't take.  It seemed to go on and off, sputtering and flaring alternately, and looking like it was going out, then flaming more brightly.

I couldn't help glancing at it.

It seemed to me that this was like our Buddhist practice.  Our lives wax and wane with obstacles and successes, but over time that's how we attain enlightenment.

By the end of Gongyo, it was burning brightly.  I hope that we all do.

More Hokkaido Photos

Well, I sure hope so.

At that time, the late 1800s, taxidermy was a popular method of collecting and preserving specimens of animals, insects and birds so that people who lived where those beings didn't would be able to see them.  Taxidermy exhibits are all over Hokkaido museums.  Some of the specimens represent beings now extinct, so I guess it's not all bad.  This is very strange today, since we have photography and also the ability to transport and house living specimens.  The sea eagle and the crane are from a museum in the Hokudai botanical gardens.  That's a very interesting place, and the two museums on the grounds are well worth the trip alone.  They have the only authentic period films of Ainu ceremonies that I encountered.  Today, Ainu people (and everybody else on Hokkaido) celebrate and
share Ainu culture and art for tourism and entertainment as well as cultural preservation purposes.  The music and dance are wonderful!  The wood and fabric art are well worth a look. The history of the Ainu and the other northern people, with their trade routes, cultural interactions and incredibly wide rage shows how people lived quite well in inhospitable climates.  Yes, they did have skis!

The building is another period farm house, and the little streetcar is the one the horse pulls!  The horse is not abused at all.  He seemed to quite enjoy pulling the street car, gets a break after every run of the short track, and trades off with his buddy.  Do NOT worry about the horse!

This village is a little hard to get to without a car -- many places in Hokkaido are like that -- but there is a bus, and I took it!  There's also a cafe where they have many wonderful things, including the ubiquitous potatoes served with butter.  Hokkaido potatoes are creamy and delicious, and the butter is excellent!  The ones I order are usually roasted.  Wonderful!

Hokudai and the Tondenhai

At the end of the 19th Century, William S. Clark came to Hokkaido by invitation.  His mission was to found a University and establish agriculture.  He did both.  What's fascinating to me is how much of what he established during his brief term resembles what was going on in Seattle at the same time.
Since there were a lot of unemployed samurai in mainland Japan at that time, and Hokkaido needed both warriors and farmers, the Tondenhei program was established to address those problems and needs.
These pioneers not only gave Hokkaido Japanese wa-jin pioneer settlers, but also a population of soldiers who could be called upon at need.  This is rather like Switzerland's citizen-soldier system, and may have been adopted from there. Japan's really good at adopting the useful.
Wa-jin people are what we think of as ethnic Japanese, not just people who are citizens.  The indigenous Ainu people were almost immediately made citizens.  Their restoration as indigenous people is very recent.
Between 1875 and 1877 about 2000 of these Tondenhai settlers arrived.  Men were assigned to regiments, given cold-weather uniforms, and families were allocated 8 acre homesteads.
On the Hokkaido University campus, there are demonstration farms and dairy barns.  Hokudai is the popular name of the University.  It's a lovely campus.  The farms and barns are oh-so-familiar to me, because my ancestors were doing pretty much the same thing in parts of the US northwest.
There is also one of Japan's great outdoor museums.  This is an artificial village made by moving historic buildings, many donated by families, from the original sites.  It's fun!
Here are some pictures.

Here are the horse who pulls the streetcar (there are two who trade off), interior of a Tondenhai house, the exterior, and here is William Clark, whose famous motto, "Boys, be ambitious," is still seen everywhere.  There were, of course, no girls at the university in those days.  Empress Shoken was instrumental in forwarding the rights and education of women, though, and it looked about 50-50 on the lovely campus now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ferry good fortune

I'm back in Tokyo after a research trip to Hokkaido for Renko's Challenge, which will be Book 6 in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.  Here are some highlights.  There is more to come.

Hokkaido is recovering quickly.  While many people cancelled their plans, I only had to cancel one leg of my planned trip because I couldn't get there by train due to tracks still under repair from earthquake damage, and bus involving backtracking and very long rides that would have left me no time to go in search of Sea Eagles.  It's early for them at that location, so it's all good.  I have an excellent excuse to go back.

Hakodate and Sapporo were developing madly with the sought-after aid of the USA during the late 1800s.  Seattle and western Washington, where I hail from, were doing the same thing, but not because  Russia wanted to annex large territories the US wished to hold on to. Seattle's phenomenal growth was largely attributable to the Alaska Purchase of 1867 and the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896.

Russia still wants to get undisputed title to many islands that string off the north coast of Hokkaido, locally known as the Kurils, and Japan is still resisting. I know I was looking at the Japanese side of history, but Tokugawa Ieyasu first formally made Hokkaido part of Japan in 1604 by establishing a definite national presence there.  There was trade with and through Siberia, much of it with China (quite legally; Chinese trade was not proscribed), and also through the Aleutian Islands with North America.  Russia didn't seriously show up until 1859, when it established a consulate and a church the instant Hakodate was opened as a free port.  Japan played a very long game and a very clever one here.  Unless Russia can show some more evidence, Japan's the clear winner in this ongoing dispute.

But!  The BOAT!  With only occasional cancellations for storms, the MOL ferry line runs two boats a day from Oarai, a port north of Tokyo, to Tomakomai, a port east of Sapporo.  You get a package, if you want, that includes transport to and from Tokyo station and to and from Sapporo, or several other towns via Sapporo, plus your ferry fare. The basic fare includes Festival Sleeping, a Japanese style dorm, for men or women, or you can get a cabin. Many of the cabins have balconies and views.  They are expensive, with a single surcharge.  The passage is overnight, and while you can bring a vehicle or a commercial truck, you can't stay in your vehicle, so you must have provision for a passenger.  You can also bring your pets, if you have a cabin.  There are buggies to transport your pets from your cabin to the designated pet playrooms and dog runs. This is hilarious, but Japanese dogs tolerate this quite well.  They are used to having chauffeurs.  I was on the Sunflower.

Cabins are pretty expensive if you're traveling alone, but there is something called "comfort class" which is essentially a capsule cabin.  You have a curtained berth, rather like a very large quarter berth, with a plug, a light, a couple of small shelves, hangers, headphones, slippers and your very own TV.  I did this and liked it very much.  There are 20 of these in a larger cabin, and I think 6 of these cabins.  I only saw women in mine.  I had lowers both times.  People are quiet and polite.  If you want to watch TV -- I didn't -- you use your earphones.  There is a Grand Bath with a View, one for women and one for men, and it's a delight to see the spa water rocking with the ship as you watch the sea slip by.  This coastal route is popular and you see other ships passing as well as fishing boats when you're close to shore.  Lighthouse spotting is fun.  People who take this mode of transport are people who like the sea, even if they are driving commercial trucks.

While you can bring food, or buy little things from the shop, most people get meals at the restaurant buffet.  It's not really cheap, but it's very good and there are plenty of choices.  You can get dinner and breakfast for 2400 if you buy both, and there is a light lunch (curry) served at noon, fairly close to landing, for 500 extra.  Wine and beer are available and vending machines abound, selling booze as well as coffee, tea and soft drinks. There's a game room and a kids' room, which came complete with a balloon artist! There isn't enough on-deck walking, but there are enclosed view seating areas which are pleasant.

Of course I liked it!  Of course I'll do it again!  I did get a couple of souvenirs.  The baths are bring your own towels, but if you forget, they sell hand towels in the shop so I expanded my collection.  I also got slippers, even though I had theirs, just because I can use them at home.  Individual servings of sake are often sold in what I would call juice glasses, so I had to have one of those, too.  I also got one on Mt. Asashidake, and I have another from the Nakasendo, so my glass collection is progressing nicely.

What may be the absolute best thing is that the weather was cool and wonderful!  It was chilly, foggy and a little rainy when I went to Mt Asahidake, and there may have been a touch of snow in the rain, though I couldn't tell for sure, but that was the only day that even approached iffy weather.  So I have another reason to go back.  And bring my skis.  You can ski absolutely everywhere in season, and the season runs about five months.

I'm back in Tokyo as of last night, running through a long list of accumulated tasks I could not get done while I was gone, and it's been raining all day.  It's going to rain most of the next two weeks, too.  I think my fortune has been very good indeed!

I forgot the thing on the right.  It is "mobile battery" for my cell phone, which all too often runs out of juice.  Yes, it does look like a calico cat.  It was selected for me by the attendant at the shop, after I had figured out how to ask for what I wanted, where to get it -- and finally learned that it has a formal name in Japanese.  "Mobile battery" is what you call it, said with a Japanese accent!