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.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Right Place

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure, will be out in a week or so in Kindle Unlimited and shortly thereafter hard copies will be available.  After a term in KU, it'll come out in all eformats via their own sites and Smashwords.  Yes, it's taken a month as of today to get it to this place after submitting for formatting, with new proofreading changes happening constantly, in the secret dark, as my sworn enemy, Auto-carrot, takes steps to make mischief out of my sight.  When the hard copy comes out, there will be another announcement.  I don't know if I posted this poem before, but I found it more or less at random, and it seemed appropriate. 

The Right Place

I want to live with seasons, all four,
Without too much rain, but plenty of snow,
With a summer hot enough to smell the evergreens while
Berrying in the woods, tending the occasional sport fruit tree, and gathering its gifts.

I want it hot enough for a swim and a lemonade, but not hot enough
To call for air conditioning.
Not dripping damp, yet not too dry,
By the ocean, with a harbor to sail, a beach to walk and storms to watch.

I want wood piled high and starlight reflecting off the snow,
While the stove envelops the house in a comforting blanket of warmth,
Cold nipping my nose and ponds freezing over,
A basket of slippers by the boot tray at the door.

I want a sweater in the morning, with golden light and changing leaves,
Nuts to gather from the ground,
And maple trees.
(OK, that may be too much.)

I want to plant a garden in a cheerful blooming spring,
When seedlings sprout under a cold frame dusted with the last of the snow.
A village on the harbor, with everything one needs,
Close enough to walk or bike or ski, without too many hills.

I want enough tourists to keep things interesting, and a
City just a bit inland, not too far, to house the things
That won’t fit picturesquely in a village.
I would fit in there just fine.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Pay to Play/Modern Marketing

The big marketing deal for writers -- now that anybody can dump anything they want into the book marketplace --  is supposed to be to write and give away freebies (always) through many expensive ads in a variety of expensive places (always), paying for reviews (if they offer them) and a mention in their throw-away emails or even snail-mails (if they offer that), and building an email list.  This has been going on for a number of years, and gets bigger and bigger and bigger, with new advertising players entering the market place every day, but as a marketing strategy, does this work?  I am not seeing evidence that it does.

There's always been a huge industry aimed at separating writers from their money.  It's just moved to a new, internet, address.  From what I can tell, this pay to play approach doesn't work very well.  I see so many FB ads about groups that want to "teach" me how to do the exact same things, and build that list.  The goal is no longer reaching your readers and selling books, it's building a mailing list.

I've followed a few groups that sound like they might do something different, something effective, but I have been consistently disappointed.  It's always the same thing.  It's like sending manuscripts to "agents" who charge "reading fees" which results in shilling for very expensive "editorial services" and no real agenting at all, ever, which used to be the marketing scam of choice.  Writers need to resist this and come up with their own ways of building a readership.  This may be the very old fashioned way of continuing to write the best books you can, get them out as best you can and trust time and the quality of your work to build readership over time.

I see in the groups and ads so many people saying they've done everything they are supposed to, and they still aren't getting a good "ROI" on their investments in advertising.  In other words, there is little to no connection I can find between the effort and money the writers are putting out and actual sales.  It's not enough to justify me dumping thousands of dollars and inordinate amounts of time into somebody's wishing well based on nothing but hope and prayer.

The only curation I see going on is based on the ability and desire to pay to play.  This is a huge part of the problem.  There're a lot of very badly written books out there.  This lack of curation defeats the supposed purpose of these marketers.  There's simply too much out there, and there is no curation.  It's hard to find the good books, though they're out there.  Only the ones written by people with deep pockets get exposure.  Eformat publishing removed the gatekeepers.  That system was very flawed, controlled by connections and little more, but we're now in a period of chaos.  There's no curation; there are no gatekeepers to keep us from being deluged with garbage.

I'm afraid that time will be the only solution, as opportunists will run out of suckers and actual gatekeepers will once again appear.  We're in a period of evolution.  We need to find a way to separate the wheat from the chaff, of establishing and seeking out curators we can trust to tell us what's good based on something more than how much they're getting paid to say it.

We need to start loving the gatekeeper.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Mountain Seasons

A haiku on spring in the mountains.

The lilacs now bloom;
My house full of fragrance.
It's going to snow.

Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure, is off to the formatter, for what we used to called typesetting.  The illustrations are ready, the glossary's done, and it's going to be another lovely book, full of action and adventure in a society careening towards the 20th century.

It'll be out in mid-June, and Book 5 is already swirling in my head.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Uncle Yuta has an Adventure -- Photography

Book 4 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series is in the FINAL stages of construction.  Right now I'm searching for illustrations, and have come upon a surprising development:  Photography!

With the advent of photography, woodblock printing didn't go out, exactly.  In fact, modern artists make prints to this day.  They're very different from the playbills, portraits of actors in roles, senic views and nature folios that went before.  Myth and folklore seemed to vanish as subjects, when there was so very much innovation to portray!

Change came with the foreigners in 1858, and by 1871, when Book 4 more or less takes place, Japanese innovators had started using analine inks to create Yokohama-e prints, which are brilliant to the point of harshness, and also full of life and innovation as Japan lurched forward into its embrace with the West.  Folklore and secenery fell by the wayside as technology surged.

Further change came with the introduction of photography, both by foreigners for historical and journalistic records, and by Japanese people themselves, as everybody explored this new medium.

This makes illustrations a little hard to come by!  I've seen photographs of the Empress Shoken in a Western Dress visiting a silk factory.  (I've also seen the actual dress; she was tiny as well as tough!)  I've seen photographs of people harvesting nori and making bricks in Shinagawa.  These photographs are in museum collections and not available on-line for public use.  Many photographs are public domain, however, yet they're often not easy to view due to fragility and age, and few subjects have been preserved.

This photograph is a colorized image of women working at a silk mill.  The Empress -- and the smiles -- are nowhere in sight.

I very much prefer the prints also though those will by stylized.  I've found some good representative ones, though, especially among the Yokohama-e!  Things changed so fast!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A new season! A new book!

Spring has finally spring.  The ski areas are closed and the lakes are open!  I have to get the new annual permit for my kayak.

The local Dollar Store sells solar lights for a dollar each.  About half of the ones I use stop working each year.  I got the new ones in place yesterday.  The Thundercloud plum is blooming and I have planted Snow Peas.  The needles are raked up and the house looks good.
Now we wait until the second week of May to plant most garden crops.  It's still too cold at night, but right around 60F for daytime highs.  Great for hiking and boating, but not swimming yet!

While I wait, I am right into production mode for Uncle Yuta has an Adventure, Book 4 in The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series.  I am proofreading again, and touching up usage as I extract Japanese words for a glossary.  At the same time I'm selecting illustrations.  I'll write the back cover and other front and back matter, and put it all together before it goes to the Formatter, then copy editing, and then...IT WILL BE OUT!

This series grows in complexity as the characters grow up.  While Book 1 is short and simple, each book increases in length, the issues become more complex as the times change at breakneck speed.  This latest book was so much fun to research and write!  I know you'll enjoy it.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Quiet Competence

I've had a very productive day.  I left my hotel at 9:45, spent a while trying to figure out how to get on the freeway, and arrived at the dentist right on time.  Less than an hour later, with clean teeth and no needed work, I arrived at the eye doctor.  By 4 PM, having accomplished more than one might think possible, I was on my way back to the hotel.
This is Mexico.  Among other things, I got a pedicure, got my hair trimmed, got one pair of glasses repaired, got one set of lenses replaced and a new pair just for the computer.  They ARE nice!
This is Mexico, where things seem a little different -- decor and utilities can be a bit funky -- but everywhere where it counts, things are clean, in perfect repair, the very latest technology, but a lot of quick professionalism, a desire to be efficient, and an ability to enjoy the gorgeous hot day while getting, for example, two pairs of glasses ready to roll from walk in to pick up in less than three hours.
This is Mexico, where things are done with a quiet efficiency, a competence so solid you don't need to shout about it.  Perfection is the norm.
Everything is done without a desire to put on a show but a desire to do a first-class job as quickly as possible, but without stressing out over it.  That will happen 95% of the time and the other 5% isn't your doing anyway.  Why worry?  Just fix it.
Now I will sit by a lovely pool and drink whatever beverage is on offer tonight, and enjoy the sunset and stars.
I like Mexico.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Welcome to spring!

Spring in the Mountains

The lake and sky are matching shades of blue.
Bikes and boats are starting to appear.
People in shorts and sandals come to ski, pulling snow pants over all.
Evenings are later.  Some days I don't even build a fire.
Look!  The pelicans are back!

Enjoy it.  Over the next week, it's going to snow.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Late Winter Poem

Mist on the lake;
The snow on the ground glistens.
Not spring; not just yet.

Fortunately, we're supposed to be getting Winter back next weekend.  I haven't skiied enough yet.
Book 4: Uncle Yuta has an Adventure is out for beta reads.  I don't have quite enough time because of the ESL teaching.  Maybe I can get significant skiing done from now until the areas close at (about) the end of March, but it's hard to manage more than one day a week right now.

Since Book 4 is out of my hands I am thinking about Book 5.  I like to end on turning points rife with possibilities.  I like to end before I am quite ready.  I like to know what happens next, at least in part.  It's things in the current book that lead to the next.  I want to work it out now, and put in clues when I rewrite, if they aren't already there.  It's going to be fun!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Did it twice!

I'm writing so hard that I barely acknowledged Lunar New Year!  I made some Chinese Almond Cookies.  My recipe is authentically Chinese and uses vegetable shortning instead of lard. I've seen recipes that recommended butter, but I think that would change the flavor significantly.  Not that it wouldn't be GOOD.  They just wouldn't taste like Chinese Almond Cookies to me.

So, happy new year, everyone.  And whether the groundhog saw its shadow for you or not, may it been a wonderful one.  We had mixed results here.  It was hazy and while one could see shadows, they didn't really manifest until later in the day.  It's been very spring-like since then.  Yesterday was a perfect spring-skiing day.  First rain and then snow are to move in tonight, but NEXT week, late, it's likely we'll get a real humdinger and winter will be back.

I've finished the first draft of Book 4, Uncle Yuta has an Adventure (working title; but I am SO BAD at titles).  I let it rest a week while I played catch-up in parts of Heisei (the current era) before returning the the Meiji era to rewrite and review before dispatching the manuscript to Beta readers.  It's a great story!

The Meiji era wasn't all fun.  The speed of change and the nature of the changes meant that everyone must have felt like rocks shaken in a jar.  Still, good and real life went on.

I am still sick of social media and don't spend much time with it, not even the mandatory writer's duty things like this.  I never know what to say!  And 9 billion others are doing it, too.  I don't have time to read all the lists I am on, much less add more.  I want to write my books.

That's all.

Back to work I go.  You WILL like this book.  It's exciting and funny, discoveries abound, friendships deepen, and then there's that Adventure.

The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy Three Book Set
Amazon Link
Apple Link
Barnes & Noble Link
Kobo Link