Thursday, December 19, 2019

Whatever you celebrate, make it merry! Holiday wishes and Special Offers!

Together, Book 3 in the Toki-Girl and Sparrow-Boy series, is free until January 6 at:

ALL THE BOOKS are on sale for half-price from December 25 through January 1 at the New Year's Sale at Smashwords End of the Year Sale!

The books on display rotate, so just enter my name or the series name to get to these wonderful books!

What's A First Draft?

I've found, over the course of what's now nine-and a half books, that nobody understands how writers work. They think I can take "days off." That books somehow magically write themselves in the middle of the night. That I don't "really" work.

They are so, so wrong. 

I just ALMOST finished the first draft of Book 7 in the Toki-girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. It is taking a little rest for a couple of days before I jump into it again tomorrow for the addition of an important bit of history that I somehow forgot and a general run through to take notes. Then I will go away for the New Year's holiday (a Very Big Deal in Japan) and return to do a real re-write, during a period when I actually CAN take a day or two off now and then to attend to some Real Life Adventures involving Serious Adulting.

But in a first draft,  I can't do that.  None of it.  I have a vague outline in my head, usually a first line and a last line and a general idea of how it gets there, but I also have a dozen characters, each with a separate story to tell against the backdrop of a nation and a time with its very own story to tell. I will have done research that often involves travel and museums. I will have stacks of notes and files in my computer and all of it will mean very little.

When I actually start to write, things change.  A first draft is the bones, the skeleton of the book. I have to keep the whole story in my head until I get it down. I'll pick something up and think it's a rib but it'll turn out to be a tibia.  Characters will insist on doing things I didn't know they wanted or needed to do. And if I am interrupted, if my brain must go do something else that involves other people and being a grown-up, I have to go back to the beginning and read it over to see what I have already down, and figure out what's sitting in my hand.

Every day I "take off" is two or three more spent on catching up.  I cannot tolerate interruptions and if you try to make me, I WILL bite. It hadn't helped that my computer broke TWICE and Apple is very much out of my favor right now.  And it always takes twice as long as I think it will.

Until I have that first draft sitting in my hands (or in my computer), I am chasing clouds and herding cats. Now I can breathe.

And, no, I am months away from done.  The book will come out in June, for the solstice, as is usual for this series, and I will have some breaks for research trips and other things programmed in. I even have a potentially exciting announcement.

So...there's another post coming with some holiday specials, and you be sure to have a great one.
Make merry!

Saturday, November 23, 2019


If you actually want to buy paper copies of my books you can get them just about anywhere BUT which insists on showing ONLY out of print editions. Try APPLE, KOBO, BARNES AND NOBLE, INGRAM SPARK and ANYBODY ELSE. You can get e-books from SMASHWORDS, and all of the above. SUPPOSEDLY you can get both print and e-format in the US on Amazon, but apparently they continue to refuse to show the NEW editions, just the out of print ones.

I have been fighting with them for months, and I have the serious feeing they're NOT going to distribute my books any more.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Way Things Change

Supposedly there are two kinds of writers: plotters, who create extensive outlines, character biographies, maps, new languages, and know where they're going before they start.  The other group is "pantsers" as in "by the seat of their...." 

I'm not sure what I am.  As usual, I'm something just a little bit different. I have a first line.  I have a last line.  I have a general idea of what the book's about.  I think I know how I'm getting from that first line to that last line. 

Then it changes.  As I get into the books and into the characters, the characters start directing the action.  Things I'd barely hinted at become central.  My working title might remain the same or it might not.  But the book grows and changes under my hands and becomes something very different from what I originally envisioned.

I can't even remember where Book 7 in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series started.  I'm now dead in the middle and so many things are happening in 1875 Kyushu, in Meiji-era Japan, and in the lives of my characters that I don't know what to write next.

My first line is still good.  So's my last one.

I now have a working title: The Eagle and the Sparrow.

It'll be out next June, for the Solstice, as has become my habit, but as for What Happens Next?  I don't even know for sure!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Few Tidbits and a Tozan

I had friends in town last week for a Buddhist pilgrimage to Taisekiji.  That's what we do.  We had fun.  That's what we do, too. 

If you're in Tokyo, take the Symphony Harbor Cruise.  It is WONDERFUL!  It'd be fun even in the rain but we had a spectacular day!  We even caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.  I hope this will become an annual event!

I can't seem to upload the pictures, but I will.  Many are on Facebook, so if you really want to see, check that out.

We had fabulous weather at Taisekiji, too -- and a CAR!  The only reason I'd really like a car is to get to places off the beaten track and for Taisekiji and environs.  The place is huge.  We got to Shimonobo, the Nanjo Family Temple, where Nikko Shonin first brought the Dai-Gohonzon when he left Minobu.  Wisteria vines used for rope took root and are still living.  It's known for the wisteria and busloads of tourists come to see the spectacular display each May.

Myorenji was the home of Nanjo Tokimitsu, Lord Ueno, and his family.  On the death of his wife, he donated his house for a temple that was named for her.  He also donated the land for Taisekiji -- one of the reasons it's so gigantic.  It's gigantic by anybody's standards and triply so by Japan's.

We were able to attend a memorial service for the late 67th High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nikken Shonin, which concluded with a massive thunderstorm followed by a double rainbow.  I DO have pictures, but they won't be found.  Also on Facebook, but will also be here if I can find them.

It was hilarious fun to watch my friends in their endless quest for previously untried Japanese Fast Food.  Most places do have a salad, and Mos Burger has a veg offering, plus onion rings.

If you try to book a Tokyo hotel through a standard hotel booking site in the US, they'll want to put you in one of a couple of locations.  One is Shinjuku.  None of those locations are convenient for me.  It's a long, long train ride and a taxi's nearly the price of a car. (Yes, I do live in central Tokyo; Tokyo is ENORMOUS.)  They're all crowded and Shinjuku is always packed with students and tourists and an odd mix of designer stores, hostess and host clubs, tourist attractions and a red light district. It's not a place I enjoy and it's not a place I'm particularly comfortable. If you're visiting Tokyo and you have friends there ask your friends what's convenient for THEM.  You can ride trains for three hours (half each way) TOGETHER and visit during the ride  Your friends might also be able to get you a better deal than any hotel booking site.

That being said, the Samurai Museum is really good!  They have a great collection of period armor, much of it on loan, superb reproductions, antique and reproductions swords, a swordsmanship demonstration coupled with a ninjutsu demonstration that's as good or better than anything I've seen (and I've seen a lot) by genuine experts in those arts.  They also deal in genuine antique swords and armor.  This is well worth a look.

It's also hard to beat Harajuku (trendy, crowded fun), Omotesando (here's the place for designer stores without host/ess bars next to them) and Meiji Shrine with its gorgeous park, the huge shrine and the nice new museum that's right there, plus the Ota Museum, which I always enjoy, right across the street.

A home-based tidbit that's possible only in Japan is this:  I use the JP Bank ATM fairly often.  I pay my rent there and also pay fees for my Temple group pilgrimages.  I went to the Secret Post Office today to pay my expenses for the New Year's Tozan.  Not all ATM machines are created equally, and I found it was more than willing to let me pay my rent -- which I must do in Japanese -- but it would NOT let me pay for the New Year's Tozan.  It had never heard of that account.  On a whim, I hit the English Guidance Button.  This never does anything I want to do, I have found, but lo and behold, although all the text was in Japanese, it DID let me pay for the New Year's Group Tozan.  Only here. Only in Japan.

Photos.  Someday.  Once I find them.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Missing the target at Ikegami

I went to Ikegami Honmonji yesterday.  I live right by it; it's famous.  Though it is now a Nichiren Shu temple, it is the place where Nichiren Daishonin died and the site where his body was cremated.  There's a museum there I wanted to see; there's architecture, a garden.  There is history.  It's exactly the sort of thing I like and I thought it might be a place some out of town visitors might be interested in.

This odd little pyramid is at the cremation site.  It has a couple of different names, and apparently is the only structure of its kind in Japan. It's pretty. Great effort was put into the architecture and art that adorns it. It's beautifully maintained. It was something I specifically wanted to see. Yet, there is no sense of awe surrounding it, no sense that something momentous happened here. It's another nice building in a temple complex that has many of them.

 There's a secondary structure inside, but normally this building remains shut. 

It is opened only for Oeshiki, when, as in all Nichiren Sects, the eternal life of the True Buddha (there is always a teacher, and that is cause for rejoicing) is celebrated here.  Far as I know, both these photos are public domain.  I could find no credits for them, but I will credit Ikegami Honmonji, which is probably the owner if only because it would so hard to get access for the latter one.

There's a museum, too.  I really wanted to see that because I like museums and I like history. At this location, I thought, they might have some really good stuff!  I wasn't impressed. Things looked wrong. The calligraphy was unclear, in places crooked and smudged. Even the calligraphy by Nichiren himself was not always the decisive and beautiful writing I have come to expect. There was something off.  It's not a place I will bring out of town Nichiren Shoshu members who enjoy studying history.  Nothing to see here.  Come to my temple instead.  Our building is fairly new and not particularly pretty, though it might have architectural significance.  Our garden is nice, but not large.  Inside, though, we are brimming with a life and light that is palpable.  I felt it the first time I entered that temple nearly thirty years ago, and it's there still, for me and for you.

There are many historic sites relating to Nichiren Daishonin. I've been to the site of his birth and early training, to the site of the temple where he first entered the clergy and studied, to Enrakuji overlooking Kyoto, where he pursued further scholarly endeavor. I've been to Kamakura, site of much of his political and religious advocacy activity, to the Isu peninsula, where he was exiled once, to Sado Island, where he was exiled again after an failed execution attempt -- and I've been to the site of that, too.  I've been by Mt. Minobu, where he retired thereafter to found his sect and create his legacy. 

I am a member of Nichiren Shoshu and I frequent Taiseki-ji the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu, where the legacy of Nichiren Daishonin took root and flowered from the time of his direct heir, Nikko Shonin, to this day.

It's different there. It's not just that it's my sect. It's not just that I think Nichiren Shoshu is correct, or that I trust Nichiren Daishonin's designation, in writing, twice, of Nikko Shonin as his successor.  Maybe it's the people, the clergy and laity who populate it. Maybe it's the Hoando, where the DaiGohonzon central to our faith is enshrined. Maybe it's an aura, a vibe, coming from all of these.  I cannot say, but I know that it is where I belong.

Make no mistake, Ikegami is beautiful. The buildings are lovely and well-maintained. The grounds are kept up. The temple is surrounded by a cemetery and Buddhist cemeteries are normally rather cheery places. But there was something off-base.  Like every other historic site I have visited, it's quiescent. There's nothing growing here. It's all about the past.

We are about the future.  I am going to Taisekji on a pilgrimage again this week and I am so very glad.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Jo-ha-kyu: how to build a book

There's a Japanese dramatic structure called jo-ha-kyu.

This was first described by Zeamai in Fushikaden, a work on Noh drama structure.  This is often translated as Style and the Flower.  Style and the Flowering might be a better way of saying this, because it describes an aesthetic form of constructing many different kinds of dramatic actions, including martial arts, dance, music, theatre, poetry and literature.

Simplistically, it could be called "beginning, middle and end," but maybe more accurately one could say "beginning, break, rapid", because it's about the relationship and interaction of those elements.  It features a slow start, showing a state of peace, followed by increasing dramatic tension leading to a quick, crashing climax followed by a denouement that restores a state of peace.

There are many ways of describing dramatic structure.  All proceed from equilibrium through conflict to a restorations of equilibrium.  Whether there are two or three levels of increasing conflict and partial resolutions, whether there are interacting dramatic arcs, and how all these are balanced -- all of this depends on the writer and the story.

I didn't know about this particular structure until I discovered I use it.  It involves slowly describing a state of peace, an auspicious period of calm and balance, and then breaking that with growing tension, growing disquiet, increasing troubles, until the problem threatens to overwhelm.  Then -- crash!  Something happens.  Equilibrium is restored.  It may not be the same peace, the same balance, the same equilibrium, but the characters can take deep breaths and adjust to their new reality.

My books often take a long time to build that first fragile peace.  Settle in.  Come to know this world and those who populate it.  Watch for clues, the little clues that might show where this universe is going, how these people (and I use that word loosely) plan their lives.  Wait for it: here's the jiggle.  Here's the jerk.  Here's the quake the knocks the pictures off the walls, dumps the crockery on the floor, and shakes loose hidebound minds.  And here's the harmony again, precarious and sudden as is life itself.

A couple of reviews noticed this.  I haven't been sure what to make of that, because I don't write to any kind of genre, much less one that jumps into the middle straight away like a thriller or a mystery often does.  Lulling the reader and the character into the initial harmony is important to me because it's consistent with overall purpose of the books.  Set in a historical period of great change, it is as important to notice the periods of peace as well as the times of chaos, because it helps explain how the characters cope with that chaos by showing who they are.  In writerly terms, this develops character more than plot.

It both interested and amused me to discover that I was unwittingly using a Japanese literary structure I didn't even know about.  I see it happening in Book 7, which almost has a working title.

Here a picture I took of the Tamagawa today.   The red-topped stick on the left shows the official high water mark.  You can see where the steps end; that's the top of the levee.  The debris line is obvious; things on the lower levels aren't open yet, though somebody did bring a boat on a trailer to the boathouse area.  The golf driving range across the river is drying out and the grass will come back.  Heavy equipment is working on the race track across the river on the left. See how far away the big levee is over there?  And see how calm and placid the river itself is?

There's your metaphor.  That's the beginning.  The increasing rains and blowing wind raising the water levels, uprooting trees and sweeping flotsam downstream is the break.  The climax?  Will the levee hold or won't it?  Will the floodwaters spill over the top or not?  And now we have the denouement, as things return to equilibrium again.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Typhoon Hagibis

Typhoon Hagibis was huge, nasty and scary. 
What's amazing is how well prepared Japan is for this sort of thing.
It was predicted well in advance and followed closely.
And people took action.

What it looked like....

I don't know if this was the Tamagawa when the flood was nearing peak but it could have been. Looks like it, just down from my apartment.  This was taken maybe 5 hours before the peak if the time stamp is right.  The debris line today shows that we were within 5 feet of it sloshing over the upper levee and from there spreading across mostly flat land until it came to my door. 

Friday midday they announced that they were stopping the Shinkansen as of the next morning's first train for the duration.  This meant that I, along with thousands of others, had to choose between going somewhere Friday afternoon or waiting until everything got sorted out Sunday or Monday.

I decided to return.  I had a conference today, Sunday, that had been jiggered with but was still on for today, and I did want to go.  I missed the special buses running from Taisekiji to the trains, but no worries: it's Japan. There was a cab. There is invariably a cab.  The station was busy and there was a line, but I thought I could use the vending machine since there was one that took cash (I avoid the card ones because of fees).  Then I realized I already had Saturday tickets.  Maybe I could change them.  I figured I'd have to pay to do that, and maybe pay more to guarantee a seat, but that was the least of my worries.  So I got in the other line.

A passing staffer was helping people waiting in the line so I asked her if I could trade my tickets.  She took them and vanished.  She returned and told me to follow her.  At the entry booth, she handed them to another staffer who stamped them and waved me through.  Eight minutes later, I was in a comfortable seat on the nice Shinkansen, heading for Tokyo.  No extra charge.

Shinagawa was kind of a mess: it was 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and the trains were going to stop running.  I would bet that an hour later it was significantly worse, and two hours later, much worse.  I made it home, no worries, just before it started to rain.   I turned on my little electric fire, set to pretty only, unpacked and generally cozied down.

Saturday, it rained.  And rained.  And RAINED.  I worked on my computer, checking the news often.  I found out it was much worse in other areas.  I kept waiting for it to hit.  Then I started seeing notices of evacuations, flooding, storm surges, roads washing out.  The day went on. The community loudspeakers warned of the impending typhoon and told everybody to batten down the hatches, more or less.  I had already done that.  It was POURING.  Buckets. 

Shortly after dark, my phone made the most appalling noise and I couldn't get it to shut up.  It was an emergency alert. (How did it know my number?  I never signed up for anything!)  The screen of my phone kept going dark before I could read the darned thing and it was hard to get it back.  I need to read more; this was annoying.

I figured this was the first alert for evacuations: the "get ready, you might have to go" signal.  Of course, there's a nice website in about 6 languages that gives all that information and tells you where to go.  This is Japan, after all.  I wasn't on the "leave" section yet, but still, I didn't think it could hurt, so I packed up for a quick evacuation -- out the door in ten seconds.  I even put my rain-boots on.  They're kind of difficult.  Areas just up the river from me were on the "leave" list.  I figured my time was coming.  Soon.

Then...there was a jiggle.  A shake.  Another jiggle.  It can't possibly earthquake.  Can it?  That would be ridiculous!  I wondered if the building might be coming off its foundations so I went outside to check everything.  All looked well.  Storm drains clear and running.  Gutters running.  Some leakage but not me, and nothing that looked urgent.  Wind blowing mightily.  I came back in to find my phone had gone off while I was gone.

It was an earthquake, yes, indeed.  5.7 off the coast of Chiba, not that far away.  Just because we're in the middle of a huge typhoon, right?  I got back on the computer, trying to translate that darned alert, while watching rain levels.  I finally got it and discovered I was right: the alert I couldn't read quickly was indeed a "get ready to leave on 5 minutes notice" alert, so I'm glad I guessed right.  I decided to get some sleep if I could.  I was now on the official "leave" list, but I figured they'd some around with loudspeakers like they do in the US, or blast the community loudspeakers.  Shelters were filling up, some were full.  I really didn't want to leave before I had to. 

Then I heard the rain emergency had been cancelled for Shizuoka, an hour south. Good news!  Then the noise...stopped.  I went outside and found the rain had slacked off almost completely. 

My phone went off again, this time with some happy-sounding music, subsequently identified as Flood Music.  THIS one was much easier to read.  The Tamagawa River had crested in Setagaya not far west of me.  Part of the difficulty is that the tides yesterday were the biggest of the month because of the full moon and predicted to coincide with the worst of the storm.  Not quite.  We were an hour or so past high tide at the crest, and perhaps two hours past by the time I could guess it would get to me.

I took off my boots and went to sleep. 

It was gorgeous this morning.  Trains were coming back on line quickly.  People were out and about.  I unpacked and went to a Temple ceremony, then my conference.  Things weren't quite normal yet.  I saw a couple of trees down.  Shops and restaurants were closed.  Somebody went around posting notices of cancellation on event posters.  Many places had closed by noon Saturday or even earlier and planned not to open until fairly late -- noon or later -- Sunday or even Monday.  People plan for this sort of thing here.

I wasn't the only person who wanted to see the river after I got home this afternoon.  I was probably the only one who forgot her phone.

There's the river channel and a bank, like a small levee.  There are park facilities and a boathouse  on my side, with a horse racing track and a golf driving range across the river from me.  There's a small levee outside of those.  Atop that is a biking and walking path.   Then there is BIG levee.  Atop THAT there is a second biking and walking path.  I'd guess it's about fifty feet from the normal river level to the top of the outer levee.  That is perhaps twelve to fifteen feet higher than the streets outside of that. 

I actually did the math on this part.  They predicted the river would crest at about 43.4 feet.  From the debris line I saw, it was about five feet from slopping over the top.  Nice work!

The soccer and baseball fields, the golf range and race track were all underwater, studded with detritus that had washed down stream.  The lower bike and walking path was still covered this afternoon. 

This is one of things to admire about Japan.  They plan for the very, very worst  -- nothing like this has happened since about 1958 -- and then allow a safety margin.  Yes, it sometimes seems too controlled and regulated, but when it's needed, it works.

Tamagawa, but I'm not sure where.

It was pretty amazing. 


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

ANOTHER GIVEAWAY, Wilson, Dragons in Love

Dragons in love?
Well, maybe.
Or maybe eagles.
Or humans.

See the dragon in the picture, above?  That's from the World Heritage Site in Kagoshima.

I am well into Book 7, as yet untitled, just as the Fall Gaijin Invasion starts in earnest.  Because of my publication schedule, the fall and spring -- times of maximum Gaijin Activity, conferences and other things I have to do that are NOT writing the new book -- are the times when I am the busiest.  So don't expect much from me. 

Writing books is HARD.

And things invariably go wrong.

Good things:

My little spider friend, an Adleson's Jumping Spider called Wilson because of his/her cute little eyes (8 of them; Wilson is also only half an inch long), is hanging around outside eating, I hope, ants and mosquitos (they do that.)  Wilson is quite responsive and bright.  We have discussions about where Wilson lives (outside) and where I live (inside.)  Look them up.  They're nice little beings.  Here's a picture but I can't upload it.  Trust me.  Wilson's cute.  And does jump!

Wilson's Cousin

My ginger is growing and the other plants are coming along.

It's cooling off so they'll have to come in soon.   Cooler is nice!

Canadian Thanksgiving is Monday.  If I can, I'll cook something celebratory.  I am gone tomorrow, Thursday, through Saturday and have a conference Sunday and I don't even want to think about how much time these delays will cost me in getting back to Book 7.

I need to imitate HRH Prince Irtysh, presently trying to figure out how to court HRH Otohime -- yes, dragons in love, or whatever they do, maybe -- and be urbane, sophisticated and invariably well-mannered.  And go roll around in my Lake of Jewels before I flame something.

Oh, I forgot about this!

THIS is a link that'll take you to a giveaway for Book 2, CHASING DREAMS!

Go read a book.  I'll go write one.  

Thursday, September 12, 2019

A Virtual Visit, New Bestsellerdom and a Limited Time Book 2 Freebie

Bestseller three times over! I now qualify as a bestseller on THREE separate books! THAT is really cool and I am stoked. Thank you for reading and liking my books. I hope they only get better.

There's also another giveaway coming. This one is for Chasing Dreams, Book Two in the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series. This one's running from September 22 to September 30, 2019, so get it while you can.  Here's the link:

It's time for Virtual Tour of my Truly Tiny House. I get questions about living in such limited space, especially since I also work here. I'm not sure I could do it so happily if I hadn't lived on a sailboat for so long (and loved every second of it; people don't seem to live on boats here, or I would seriously look into it). This is about the size of a 40 foot powerboat.  

Minimizing is crucial. Accumulation is the enemy. Being relentlessly tidy helps: everything has its place and it must go there. Dishes can't wait. Laundry -- the never-ending enemy -- can't pile up. My skis are in my kitchen, tucked beside the refrigerator behind the Swiffer-clone and the vacuum. I sweep daily.  I get nervous and claustrophobic if surfaces aren't clean.

This apartment is not done yet, but it's getting close. I have 6 A-4 (a little bigger than US letter) sized photographs of Taiseki-ji, a poster of the San-Mon (historic huge gate) with Mt. Fuji in the background, and a couple of local maps. Where I'm putting them I do not know, but now that the basics are in place, they'll tell me where they want to go. The walls are starting to demand pictures!

This is the front hall; it's what you see standing in the genken, at the front door. I have a place for umbrellas, shoes and my purse, the internet connection device and modem (there are plugs out here; Japanese construction is notoriously short on plugs). My Wonderful Trash Sorter is there with the Incredible Hot Water Kettle above it and room for either my rice cooker or my blender. Maybe both.  Such luxury!

Look! I have a tiny little laundry room! That's the washer on the right. It sits in a pan (in case of leaks) but has a drain hose that runs into the floor.  There's no place to dry things in there.  The "dry" setting on the washer really only means, "less damp."

This is the bathroom. It's what is called a "unit bath," which means the tub/shower, sink and toilet are all in the same room. They are built as a unit, and the whole thing is installed as one. The tub is nice and deep. The sink faucet fills the tub. There is no shelving or storage, a big defect in Japanese bathrooms. I had to buy a little shelving unit for this room and the laundry room. You can just see it on the left.  It's maybe six inches deep, but there's no room for more.

This is Room #1, and this is the kitchen. Visible are the burner (there is ONE), the sink, the microwave and refrigerator.  On the floor in front of the only cupboards (what you see is what you get) is a trap door that opens to an in-floor pantry. On the left is my chest of drawers, which I love, and next to that the rolling rack housing my purses (top), clothes and coats (middle) and room for some shoes or what have you on a bottom shelf.

This makes me happy. You can see the sleeve of my raincoat on the right, so you can tell where I am standing. This is my Butsudan, with its own floor chair permanently sitting in front of it, and a small two-drawer chest on the left to hold the fruit, a lamp, with last year's Oeshiki flowers behind. It's really nice to have such a large dedicated space and not have to move chairs. It feels very comfortable.

Standing by the outside doors in Room #2, here's my bed.  On the right is a back rest so I can use it as extra seating and work there. There is continuity of color, also important in tiny spaces. Of course, I have a nightstand and lamp. That's a lovely carved lacquer piece that I really like.

From the doors to the outside, standing at the foot of the bed, you see my desk and a rattan chest of drawers. They aren't all full, but drawers are nice.  Lack of storage spaces is a universal feature and I don't like the stacked plastic boxes that most people seem to have. On the left is a really nice step-stool that has many uses. That's my little heater/mock fireplace on top. I couldn't do without that!

This is about two/thirds of the width of Room #2 -- you can see the foot of the bed on the left and the edge of the step-stool on the right. The whole wall, pretty much, is glass. This is my outside. The deck is all mine, with laundry-drying facilities, of course, though the gas dryers next door keep seducing me, a chair I enjoy, and places for plants. Several of the plants are annuals and the rest will come in when it gets cold. The weed patch is beyond and I'm excited to see what, if anything, I'm going to do with that!

This ends your virtual tour.  Now you know why I won't be asking you over next time you're in Tokyo -- there's no place to put you, but it's suiting me just fine.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Tokyo -- a different city everywhere you look

I've moved.  I'm now by the Tama river, in Ota-ku.  I'm still in the 23 Wards, which is Tokyo Proper, but it feels like a new city again.
Moving was both easier and harder than one might imagine.
It was pretty costly, with small bills still dribbling in.  I have no idea how I acquired so many things, some of which I will not need in the new place.  I will need new curtains, and must dispose of things bought for the old place that I can't possibly fit in here.  I wonder how I do that.
The square meter-age is identical. It translates to less than 300 square feet. That's small. This apartment has no sizable storage closet, but does have a place for the washer inside. There's a hall, which is separated from the two tiny rooms by a door, so one doesn't heat or cool the hall, laundry room or bathroom. That should be a saving.
Big, wide doors open onto a larger outdoor area -- deck? This is first floor, so no stairs, and that's nice. The deck opens onto a small green area that's separated from the neighbors, and I have been told I can make a garden there. Right now, Japan's verdant luxurious greenery is all...weeds. Everywhere.  I recognize a type of wild mustard. I think. I hope gardeners will come by and clear it all out, so I can have weed blocker and stone put down and plant things in planters on top of that.  What I think are azaleas line the back fence.
There's less kitchen, but the big bonus is that the heating and cooling work better, because the shape of the space allows the HVAC unit to reach everywhere. This gives me a real space for my Butsudan, a genuine home for it that's warmed and cooled, that gives me a better place to chant. I like that very much. Since this move was a big surprise to me, I suspect that's what it's about.
I haven't had a chance to get to the riverside park yet. It's got hiking and biking paths. It's not far, so soon. There's also a seaside park, because Ota-ku is further east than Meguro, right on the ocean.  I'm looking forward to that.
When one moves in Japan, one must register one's address. If you move from -ku to -ku (the -kus being wards, or municipalities, within the 23 wards of Tokyo-to, which functions as a province rather than a city) you have to go to your old -ku and sign out. They give you things. Your medical insurance is transferred to the new -ku, for example. You take these things to the office of the new -ku and sign in. I did this yesterday, visiting both in less than six hours, door to door, including several train rides. Incredibly efficient, incredibly nice, and I am now official.
I pay my medical insurance premiums by the year -- they are THAT cheap -- and the year runs from April to April. So Meguro will refund my overpaid premiums. Ota will send me a bill at some point and I will pay them. The premiums should remain the same, as it's a national program. The insurance remains effective. There is no coverage lapse.  I'll find out if there is any coverage or service difference -- it won't be much -- when I get the new information. That's because municipalities administer things differently and some provide more or different services from local taxes in additional to the national program. I'll have to figure out how to set up the automatic payment again.
Long term care insurance is interesting. I get bills quarterly. I can pay the premiums monthly or quarterly. I was going to set this up for annual automatic payment, but hadn't had a chance (again, the cost is absurdly reasonable compared to the US). I don't have an actual card for this, which some bureaucrats found disconcerting, but I believe it's because while I pay the premiums for this, I don't actually use any of its services. They seem to buy that, anyway. I think it has to do with not having paid in for a required minimum of time yet, though I am over the age when premium payments usually stop.  I think.  Maybe.
It's raining today, so I experimented with the coin laundry dryers next door to dry the sheets and now I am trying to figure out how to get rid of stuff. It's probably easier than I think. Getting a trash tag for disposal of an ancient broken suitcase I have no place to store was simple. I just have to walk to the nearest combini (convenience store) and buy it. Now I have to find out what to do with useful things I have no place or need for.
I'm still in the city. Kamata station is large and bustling, much more sophisticated than Musashi-koyama.  Hasunuma and Yaguchi-no-watashi, the two other nearby stations -- they all mostly lead to different lines or are closer to here; this is a very convenient location -- look like little small town stations, with old-fashioned drop-bar crossings and tiny roofs over the platforms. They feel like the country.
Cities don't get larger than Tokyo, but they also don't get more diverse. One could spend a lifetime exploring one's own neighborhood, never leaving it, as people are known to do in London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York.
But there are so many neighborhoods to explore!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A little history...a big decision.

Two years ago today, I landed in Japan with the intention of staying.  It was hard to get a visa.  Hard to get a place to live.  I'll be moving shortly to an apartment that will suit me better, at the suggestion of my landlady.  My visa shows every sign of renewability until I can get permanent residency, which I have decided I want.  Yes, I am still here.  Yes, I plan to stay.  I like it here.
Japan isn't perfect.  Japan surprises me every day. I hate the climate right now.  I need to organize things so I can go somewhere cool in August, but I have the chance to go to Taisekiji and make a Tozan pilgrimage on my actual birthday this year, for the first time, so I'm definitely doing that -- and then I move.
I didn't know if I would want to stay here.  I didn't know how I'd fit in.  I didn't know a lot of things, but what I know now is that Japan is working for me.  J'y suis; j'y reste.  Here I am, here I'll stay.

More Kagoshima later -- there is plenty more to say, but since I'm moving, this might take a few weeks.  Enjoy the summer, wherever you are.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

We interrupt this voyage.... Book Review for Rosalind, Dragon Sisters SALE.

More about Kagoshima is coming.  It's really fun to relive and digest that trip.  But sometimes other things happen.  Should I investigate audio books?  Judith Deborah did, with Rosalind and the results are extraordinary.  What do you think?

I've been having real trouble getting Amazon (which covers the US only) to get the new editions of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series up and running so people can find them, and, you know, buy them.  I am making progress.  Reviews are finally getting sorted and editorial reviews (ones that are published by professional reviewers) are coming, too.  It's pretty dreadful when everybody who reads your books likes them, but people who might want to read them can't find them -- especially when the new editions have some new illustrations, a consistent style sheet (that is harder), no errors (well, there's always one, but we sure tried), great new covers and new jacket copy.  Plus a whole new book.  I've been at this five weeks now and the light at the end of the tunnel may not be an oncoming train.  Once I get this going, I can take care of iBooks, Kobo, B & N, and all the other retailers around the world who stock these amazing books.  I suspect they're all right, but I won't know until I get in there.

But AMAZON has done something right.

The Dragon Sisters, in paperback format, is ON SALE for $9.98.  Since they didn't ask me about this, and didn't bother to even tell me, I have no idea how long this will last.  But if you want this book in hard copy, grab it now!

The Dragon Sisters -- paperback

And now for something different and very, very good.

Beautifully done -- A post about a book that isn't mine! Rosalind, by Judith Deborah, available on Amazon. My search shows the e-book is free for a limited time. Grab this one!
Beautifully Rendered Audio of an Excellent Book I've read the print version and I enjoyed it thoroughly -- it is beautifully written, the kind of literary fiction we don't often see today. Read it. It's first class. Here, I'm just talking about the audio book. I'm not much of an audio book fan -- I have been disappointed when the narrator's voice strikes me as wrong -- but I have been considering audio books for my own books, so I thought I'd give this a listen. And I LOVE it. The narrator's voice brought the characters to life spectacularly. It helps to have good material to start with, sure, but the right narrator makes a huge difference for me. This is an audio book worth listening to, even if you have read the print version. If audio books are your first choice, get this one.
Rosalind on Amazon