Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Life on the Floor: Orienteering in Tokyo

Orienteering is a sport using landmarks, compass directions, clues and occasionally maps to trace a predetermined course to a goal. I am usually good at it. Not in Tokyo.

Susan Spann writes mystery books, climbs mountains, and writes about that, too. She is also studying calligraphy. Despite being left-handed, she does it right-handed, because that's the correct way, and she's getting pretty darned good at it. I stand in awe. She has a piece on exhibit at a gallery in Nihonbashi. If you want to see her work, you'll have to look on Facebook, because I can't download the picture of it. It's a super photo she took of Mt. Fuji -- she's good at that, too -- and her beautiful calligraphy is a haiku by Murakami Kijo  -- oh, just go look.  It's worth it.

I had free time this morning, which I did not expect, and could actually take a bit of a break.  I decided to go to the Temple, of course, but it occurred to me I could shoot up to Nihonbashi and take in the exhibit on my way.

The gallery is part of Ozu Washi, a washi paper store, and that sounded fun, too. I had its actual address, its web site in my phone, and directions including the exit from Nihonbashi station and a city map, plus a second map showing the specific route!  Good to go, right?

Emerging from correct exit of Nihonbashi station, I follow the directions. I reach the place where the gallery's own map tells me it should be. It isn't. I look at physical addresses. Everything's quite clear in Nihonbashi, and there is a genuine physical map right there, to which I compare the address. Yes, I am standing right on top of the place! But it isn't there. I turn on the GPS, which tells me to walk about a kilometer in a long U-shaped route heading, vaguely, toward Tokyo Station. In Tokyo, that could be right. Anyway, if I get to Tokyo Station, it'll be easier to get to the Temple.

The little blue dots blink and blink as I follow their path, but when I am to turn -- HERE, there is a blank wall.  For an entire block. Try finding a way around it. Just TRY. The little blue dots insist there is one. There isn't. Obviously the blue dots have not caught up to construction in Central Tokyo.

There is no gallery. There is no paper store. There is, however, the Yaesu Central Entrance to Tokyo Station. Inside Tokyo station, in the basement, is Ramen Street, and a restaurant that sells vegetarian ramen. Clearly, I am being led in the direction of food. This restaurant -- I have been there only once at this point -- is amazingly easy to find. I walk right to it.  And have lunch.

This is the vegan ramen. I didn't take a picture until I'd tasted, so it was prettier, and yes, those orange things are saffron threads.  Cost? 1200 yen.

Here's the place where you get it.  The woman in gray is getting her ticket from a machine.  Someone will come to seat her and take half her ticket to the kitchen, where the cooks will make her lunch.  It will be very, very good. If you want to eat in Tokyo station, THIS is the place if you're veg -- and a good choice even if you aren't.

This is the Way of Tokyo, and often the Way of Japan.  Start out with one goal, end up with something else.  Go with the flow.  It's all good.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

COVER PHOTOS! 4, 5 and 6 Paperbacks Available on Amazon/LINKS

They're having a little trouble with the covers on 1, 2 and 3 but that will be rectified shortly.


Coming Home (Book 1.  2014, 2019) $2.99

Chasing Dreams (Book 2.  2015, 2019) $3.99

Together (Book 3.  2016, 2019)  $5.99

Uncle Yuta has an Adventure (Book 4. 2017, 2019) $5.99

Noriko’s Journey (Book 5, 2918. 2019) $5.99

The Dragon Sisters (Book 6.  2019) $5.99 

Friday, June 14, 2019

"I shall be released!" E-BOOKS AVAILABLE! LINKS!

The technical "release date" for all the new editions of The Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy series AND of The Dragon Sisters, Book 6, is June 21.

<Photo Problems.  I'll keep trying.  Darn it!>

That's the Equinox, the Quarter-Day, by which Azuki and Shota had to make their existence known or lose their human identities forever.

But it takes a while for the books to become available from all retailers.  iTunes is probably the slowest -- it can take them several weeks.  On the website,, there will be universal links so you can get the books in your favorite format from the retailer of your choice.  That's about a week away, and I hope will happen by June 21.  I'll announce that when it happens.

Right now, the books are available in E-Format from Amazon in the USA and IngramSpark or Smashwords for everywhere else -- until the titles upload to the usual retailer of your choice.

Here are the Amazon links:

Coming Home (Book 1.  2014, 2019) $2.99

Chasing Dreams (Book 2.  2015, 2019) $3.99

Together (Book 3.  2016, 2019)  $5.99

Uncle Yuta has an Adventure (Book 4. 2017, 2019) $5.99

Noriko’s Journey (Book 5, 2918. 2019) $5.99

The Dragon Sisters (Book 6.  2019) $5.99 

PRINT BOOKS will be available in the US from AMAZON, I hope by June 21, and should be accessible from the above links.  They'll be available everywhere else from the same usual retailers like B & N, Kobo and so on, sometime soon but I can't tell exactly when.  Distribution of print books outside of the US and outside of Amazon is handled by Ingram Books Company.  

The information you probably do not want, but I know I'd read it:

Why did I do a re-release?  
With six books, this is a real series, and it's going on.  It's important to have consistent style inside and out, with consistent interior design and access to things like glossaries and character lists and all that good stuff all in one place -- and that's the website,  This will constantly be updating.

Why are the covers new?
I ran out of options with the original covers, though I like the underlying art very much. Since the series will continue long past 6 books, I needed the flexibility to continue consistent cover design.  Shelley Glaslow designed the covers using art by Hiromi Kozuki, whose art is also inside books 1 & 6.  These reflect the playful and humorous nature of the books (and the dragons), and allow for new, more expressive, jacket copy.  

What's a style sheet? 
That's what tells the editor, copyeditor and proofreader what should be in italics, what should be capitalized, what fonts to use when, and all the kind of details that make a reader's experience seamless from book to book.  These people are the unsung heroes of the publishing industry and I can't thank mine enough.

Sorry about the price increases, but...
Printing costs and fees charged to me have increased exponentially.  As a reader, I don't like price increases any more than you do.  I read a LOT.   Writers only make about a quarter per book sale. I have been railing a lot lately about the shameless profiteering on the part of Big Five publishers charging more for ebooks than for paperbacks and the cost of ebooks being over $20, with paperbacks topping $30 in many cases.  I'm doing my best to keep my books affordable both as ebooks and as high-quality paperbacks.


Thursday, June 13, 2019


For all of you have downloaded The Sparrows of Pusan, there is NEWS!
The story's been edited a little -- you all know I can't spell, right?)

AND - it has an adorable new cover to go with the new covers for the series.  Please do watch this space because as soon as I can make it so, the NEW version with the NEW cover will be available from the website, and I want you to have it.

I'll let you know when it all goes up.  Be aware, for people who shop from iBooks in particular that it can take a few weeks for something to show up in the store.  But I'll be following and as soon as all the books are available to order, I'll have that information on the website.

I've been galley-proofing, and you're going to love The Dragon Sisters.  I know I do!

Here's a preview.  This is so exciting!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ridin' that Train

Japan does know how to have fun!  I find that Japan places a premium on having fun as often and as much as possible.  Enjoying every minute of every day is something everybody should try to do, and so I did.

I went to ride a train.  This train is a steam train, SL Yamaguchi.  It looks a lot like the Hogwarts' Express and it runs from Shin-Yamaguchi to Tsuwano, a former castle town in the mountains.  It starts in Yamaguchi, located in Yamaguchi prefecture.  That is a pleasant small city with a few interesting things.  There's a shrine built in the ancient mode that's rebuilt every twenty years, like the major shrine at Ise.  There's a temple, also of architectural interest.  Artists like the area, it's on the water and this prefecture is where the Fugu come from.  There's Fugu everything, everywhere.  If you eat fish, and you want to eat Fugu, this would be the place.

But I was there to ride a train.  This train.  From Shin-Yamaguchi to Tsuwano, up in the mountains.  It's a former castle town with a lovely old Inari shrine worth seeing and a museum, but you KNEW I'd love the museum.

The train itself is a museum.  Here's one of the cars, set up in the old style with four seats in groups around a table, where you can meet and talk to your fellow passengers once they get on board.

Pretty much, everyone's outside taking pictures.  I don't know exactly why everybody wanted to take this one, but everybody did, so I did, too.  It shows the engine very nicely.  And some random child.

 This shows the beautiful countryside the line traverses.  The houses are bigger.  There are orchards and market gardens.  Wherever the land is flat and wet enough, of course there is rice.  It's very like the country where the Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy live.

In Tsuwano, the train is carefully inspected -- and I mean with a fine-tooth comb -- to make sure it's all in perfect order after its two and half hour trip up the mountain. It gets more coal.  It's filled with water.  Must have water to make steam!  That tube thing rising from the top of the engine collects the smoke and cleans the air.  I have seen these before in films (haven't you?) but I never knew what they were.

Here's the fireman (that's an actual job title) stocking up coal and loading on the water.  The rest of the crew have gone to lunch.  The inspector is on the lower right, by the big wheels, thoroughly, and I do mean thoroughly, checking every bolt, screw, attachment and everything else.  This is one clean and well maintained train!

Fugu!  Art from the train station.  Everything that isn't train is fugu!  They're smaller than I thought and pretty cute.  Deadly to eat if not prepared precisely correctly.  Chefs are certified.

Look at this!  This is a glimpse of the firebox and the inside of the engine.  Look at the heat of that fire.  No wonder the Dragon King likes these trains.

At Tsuwano, the cars are moved off to a side track so the engine can hook up to them going the right way to go back down the hill.  But first the engine has to turn around! The engine is driven onto a turntable and stopped.  There is a service pit, I guess you'd call it, beneath the tracks where the engine sits, so the underside can be examined and repaired.  The fun part is when the turntable turns to position the engine to drive over to the service area, and after it's serviced and backs up onto the turntable again, turns it to position it correctly for the trip down the hill.  Yes, this is a major attraction for train riders and fans!

The last car is First Class (Green Car, in Japan). It has a viewing platform so you can stand at the end and wave!  People line up wherever there's room to wave as the train goes by. People who live on the line come out to wave every time it passes, if they can.  That's morning and evening, weekends, in season.  It closes in winter.

 A friend of mine lives just off the route and actually came out to wave at ME!  That was enormous fun!  He's responsible for getting me so interested in this train that I just had to ride it.    He even got VIDEO!  Thank you, Jim Lockhart, for taking this.  THIS is what you want to look at to see the train in actual motion.  

Having somebody to look for and wave at only makes it even more fun -- even my charming seat neighbors enjoyed it and they don't even know you!

Photographers in large groups cluster everywhere there's room and access, everybody waves, and it's tremendous fun.  There are number of fun-run trains in Japan.  Most do go somewhere, and it's possible to take them for transportation, but most people just come for the fun of riding a train.  I'm turning into a railroad buff.  If you like trains, or if you even think you might like trains, add a train to your list of fun things to do in Japan.  I'll be taking more of them.