Welcome Message

Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where Foreigners Fear To Tread

Japan scares me.

Not as a society or culturally. But even after six years here, I'm still a stranger in a strange land. I know most of it has to do with not knowing Japanese. Yes, I've been here for more than half a decade and my Japanese level is still the same as it was when I arrived. Maybe even worse. But that is (or is not) another post. I admit that sometimes I am afraid to go out my door.

A lot of times, especially on weekends, I create a little bubble around myself. Most of the time it isn't on purpose. I just get to watching movies or TV, listening to music, reading, and it is all in English. Then it's a quick jaunt to 7-11 and I'm reminded I'm half a world away from where I grew up as soon as the clerk opens her mouth to welcome me to the store.

It's this fear and dislocation that often prevents me from trying new places. Case in point was Cafe Ange, a little coffee shop only a few hundred meters away from the door to my apartment's lobby. I have passed by numerous times and always told myself I would go in. Months passed and I never did. Last week I plucked up my courage and went in. The inside was very beautiful, although how you can mess up a BLT sandwich is beyond me. The point is, I had to force myself to go. Sure, it's a little cafe but when you can't read or pronounce 90% of what's on the menu, it's a daunting task.

I've realized that since I've been married, I rely on Yoko quite a bit; possibly more than I should. Living on my own, I was forced to interact with postal clerks and waiters. Now, I just put off what I need to do until Yoko and I can do it together. That's not good. I need to regain a bit of my independence. But when someone makes your life easier in a foreign land, you find yourself leaning on them more and more.

I'm not blaming her. Also, I love Japan, as many of my friends (here and abroad) will attest to. But I admit I sometimes have to make a conscious effort to get out the front door.

As always, thanks for reading.

Not my lunch at Cafe Ange. This is a nice breakfast at Primavera.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas In Translation


Last year, I wrote a Christmas post for another author's blog. It got a few good comments so I'm deciding to repost it here on Resonant Blue.

*************************

Flashing Christmas lights decorate the store windows. Malls and restaurants are playing Christmas music and snow will soon be falling in the northern climes. Presents are wrapped and greeting cards signed, and the KFC dinner is on the table for the big feast. (Insert screeching record sound here). Kentucky Fried Chicken? For Christmas dinner?! What's going on? Turkey and pumpkin pie may be staples of Christmas dinner in America, but it's KFC and Christmas cake in Japan.

I'm an expatriate living in Japan. I've been here just over five years, and I tell you, living overseas can be tough. Even when things are similar, like McDonald's, supermarkets, and Christmas, sometimes the little differences between what you’re use to and what the custom is, are the hardest to deal with.

Christmas in Japan is not a religious holiday. While Christianity is present in Japan, Buddhism and Shinto are the two dominant religions. Christmas came to Japan in the 1800s by missionaries and the first recorded Christmas was celebrated in my home prefecture of Yamaguchi, at the southern end of the big island. That being said, Christmas is looked on as a romantic holiday, more akin to America’s Valentine’s Day.

Couples often have romantic dinners, take walks to enjoy the light displays, and give each other a gift of affection. Romance is in the cold winter air, there’s a reason WHAM’s Last Christmas and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You are among the most popular Christmas songs. Christmas is somewhat romantic in America also. It’s a time for friends and family, visiting each other’s relatives, maybe even popping the question on that perfect sleigh ride. I spent my first Christmas in Japan alone, with my two feet tall fake tree and some DVDs. But it didn’t get me down. I decorated the tree just like I use to in America, listening to Amy Grant Christmas music and putting the presents mom had mailed me under the tree. Sure, I was alone. But by doing the same holiday traditions in Japan I had done in America, I brought a little piece of home with me. Was it a bad Christmas? No. Just different.

Presents are another staple of Christmas and here in Japan, even this is different. There is no Black Friday or Cyber Monday here; in fact, my wife (who is Japanese) had never heard of these terms before. There are Christmas sales at the store but there is no loud push for you to buy, buy, buy and get that last-minute shopping done. Most people, even children, get one or two presents. That’s it. Sure, some get more, but the norm seems to be one or two. And Santa (whom Japanese kids think lives in Finland or Norway, maybe Greenland) doesn’t put their presents under the tree, which is typically three feet high; he puts them beside their pillow or on the floor at the head of their bed.

When it comes to food, that may be the biggest difference. Turkey is almost non-existent in Japan, and even if they did live here, there is no way they would fit in an average sized oven. Most Japanese people I have met have never eaten turkey in their life; for them, chicken is close enough. KFC runs specials on absolutely gorgeous Christmas dinners for the family and eating KFC on Christmas is usual. But if an American can’t live without turkey or pumpkin pie on Christmas, the Japanese can’t live without their Christmas cake. Often white with strawberries on top (sometimes chocolate or buttercream flavored as well) these are a holiday staple everyone eats every year. Every store, food shop, and convenience store sells these cakes and most of the time you have to order them.

But what is truly missing from Christmas in Japan is the rush: the madness to shop, shop, shop, the stress of getting every family member a gift, driving from store to store looking for the best deal. Christmas is just another holiday here, slightly more important that others, but not the biggest. It’s for the couples, for the romantics, for the parents to show some love to their kids.

That’s what I love most about Christmas: love. Christmas is more about love than Valentine’s Day. It’s the love of Christians for Jesus Christ. It’s the love Santa has for children, wanting to make boys and girls happy. It’s the love of humanity helping each other. It’s a season to love and be loved. And the slowness the Japanese have about the season, the emphasis on romance, is what made me like Christmas even more.

Teaching junior high students about Christmas and discussing differing customs with Japanese people made me realize I can make my own Christmas. Here in Japan, I got to introduce Christmas the way I wanted it to be. I don’t look at my waist high tree as puny, I look at it as the tree my wife and I bought together. She enjoys American music and I was able to introduce my tradition of listening to Amy Grant while we decorate. Her parents are delighted that I give them gifts for Christmas. I’ve eaten Japanese Christmas cake and looked at the Christmas lights while holding hands with my wife. I’ve made my own Christmas here. And when you’re living apart from everything familiar and comforting to you, that’s what you have to do. Make it your own. No matter where you are, Christmas is where you make it.

************************

As always, thanks for reading and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my followers who celebrate this holiday, Happy Thanksgiving.

This holiday doesn't exist in Japan. Every year my wife and I have a small Thanksgiving party with different friends. Most of them are Japanese who have never experienced this holiday.

Along with that, most of them have never had traditional thanksgiving food. That's right; I've met people in their 40s who have never eaten turkey. That meat hardly exists in Japan. Specialty stores and Costco are the only places I've seen it. Even cold cuts for sandwiches are pretty much non-existent here.

For our traditional food, we either order it online or get it sent from America. We spend the morning cooking, then eat in the afternoon. I explain what the holiday is for. For the most part, I and Yoko's holiday is a lot like it is in America: good food and good times with good friends.
Happy holidays, everyone.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Craft Fair

On Nov. 16, Yoko and I went to the Craft and Information Fair at the Marine base here in Iwakuni. It was the first time I had ever been there. It was nice, with about 20 booths selling handmade crafts such as jewelry, bags, photography services, and more. We went there primarily for two reasons: to buy our annual Christmas ornament, and to support a fellow author.

Jessica Guthrie has a home-based business in which she makes and sells crafts and scrapbooks. Yoko and I always buy a special ornament every year for our Christmas tree, usually in America. We couldn't go to America this year but I saw Jessica had some beautiful ornaments for sale so we bought one from her.

Nikki Bennett is an author on base and has written several YA books. She is the head of our writing group here in Iwakuni, I bought two books from her and she was kind enough to sign them and have her husband Steve illustrate the front page.

We had a great time and may attend the next fair.

Here is one of Jessica's websites: http://tenaciouslyremembered.blogspot.jp


Nikki Bennett: http://www.firedrakebooks.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Book Review: The Sea Inside (Cerulean Songs #1) by Vickie Johnstone

From Goodreads: Book 1 in the Cerulean Songs series. 

Time is all we have; it flows – it cannot stop.

Jayne wakes up in hospital following a terrible accident, which changes her life as she knew it. While struggling to recover, she is visited by a mysterious woman who offers her a gift. To the girl’s astonishment, she finds herself on a journey, on both the physical and mental plane. It brings her to the mystical realm of Entyre, where life is very different and power lies with the creatures of the deep. While the threads of time keep flowing, Jayne must decide what is real, who to trust, and regain her inner strength in order to find herself and her true destiny.

Going into this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I got was a great start to a series that reminded me of The Neverending Story and Neil Gaiman.

As usual, I'll start with the bad. As I stated in my other book reviews, I don't like authors switching between third- and first-person narratives. Stick with one and use it. It wasn't as jarring in this book since we are with Jayne in the magical worlds for most of the book. As for Jayne herself, she really didn't do much for me. I like the fact she was paralyzed inane accident and developed a fear of water. She had much to overcome. I felt that she overcame her tasks a little easily but she was a friendly main character.

But if the main character was a plain Jayne (sorry, I couldn't resist) the worlds Johnstone created were anything but. While the repeated colors and description first annoyed me, I later appreciated them. Johnstone created vivid pictures in my mind of Entyre and the other worlds and her imagery made me want to visit those places. I imagined the magical atmosphere of Neverending Story with the colors and shapes of Tim Burton (without the creepiness). Cidanet, the talking dragonfly, seemed Gaiman-esque and was an interesting character.

The two halves of the book are very different, with Jayne in an underwater city then going on a magical adventure quest through various worlds. I really want to see how all these places fit together.

The Sea Inside is an enjoyable book.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Book Review: Retrospection by S.L. Wallace

A while ago I was asked to be a beta reader for S.L. Wallace. Here is my review for the finished version of her novella Retrospection. This is the official synopsis from Goodreads: "When Claire wakes up in the hospital, she discovers a stranger in her room who only she can see and hear. Learning Jhidhai's secrets will take her on a journey through both time and space. But Claire has secrets of her own—secrets that will lead her toward a destination she would never have imagined."

This was an enjoyable novella which is a series a vignettes. It switches from 3rd to 1st person POVs as Claire and Jhidhai relive memories. I wish the author had picked one POV and stuck with it throughout. Many books I have read recently use this switching technique and I don't like it. That's just a personal preference.

The memories we visit are mostly painful, there aren't many happy moments in this story but it isn't depressing. There is an undercurrent of resolve and strength, as if Wallace is telling us that all memories, even the bad ones, strengthen us. The vignettes are largely unconnected from each other and I wish there had been more of a through line or something to connect them more.

That all said, Wallace is a good author and this story is a quick enjoyable read that takes us to many times and places. We briefly experience the pains and joys of a multitude of characters and we remember that memories are precious things that need to be cherished and protected.

Get in touch with S.L. Wallace via Twitter or her website.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Book Titles

A while ago, a fellow author was asking friends for potential book titles for her novella. We chatted online and I mentioned that titles were difficult for me to come up with. After thinking about for a bit, though, I realized I was wrong. Titles are kind of easy for me. As to whether I will ever use them is a different matter.

Book titles aren't copyright protected. That's why some books have the same titles. Trademark protection is different; that's why your newest novel can't be called Harry Potter and (insert rest here). But phrases that are general, say One Moment In Time, is fair game.

Most of my title ideas come from other titles and song lyrics. If I'm going to use something like that, I make sure my work is of a different genre than what the original title came from. For example, I have a potential title: Beauty 7. This was originally the title of an old Japanese drama dealing with the lives of the employees and customers of a beauty salon. I think it would make a great title for a horror/mystery story about someone killing seven women for their body parts to create his idealized girlfriend. Same title, different genres.

If you have a certain set of lyrics or phrase you like, there is no problem using it. I write down titles as they come to me, sometimes I get an inspiration for an idea; most of the time the title just seems cool and I wait for a story that fits it. Even titles of TV episodes can be used.

If you're unsure about using a title for a book, possibly for legal reasons or it quite doesn't fit the story, think about saving it for a chapter heading. Not all chapters have to be Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and so forth. While thinking of a title for every chapter might be more difficult, it can help get you use to thinking about titles and you can use ones that you've been kicking around in your head but weren't quite sure about.

If some word or phrase strikes a chord with you, write it down. If you have an e-reader and a particular passage or turn of phrase catches your eye, highlight it. You never know when the right title will come along.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Child Of The Loch by Elizabeth Delana Rosa

Child Of The Loch is a YA fantasy novel. Here is the official synopsis via Goodreads: "Twenty-three year accountant, J.J. McDonnell, has spent her life trying to be normal and hide her gifts, but all dreams of normalcy are dashed on her twenty-fourth birthday. A handsome man shows up on her porch with a marriage edict and news that the grandfather she has never met, has died. Her world is about to change forever. J.J. must make the perilous journey to the Loch and take her place on its throne. With no idea what is expected of her and dark forces closing in at every turn, will J.J. be able to accept her destiny or will she be stopped before she can?"


I really liked this book, which isn't a full-length novel but actually a novella to introduce Rosa's ongoing series. While it was intended/written as a YA novel, I felt it didn't quite come across as one. Most YA novels have teenagers making up the majority of the cast, while everyone in COTL are adults. But the style and pacing is for a YA novella and everything just felt rushed. There was so much in the book that could have been expanded on that it could have been an epic-length novel. I felt this book was almost a summary, there was so much that was told, not shown. It's an adult fantasy novel written in YA style but I think it should have been one or the other.

Take it as a good sign that I wanted a slower book, Rosa has built an interesting low-fantasy world that I wanted to explore more. J.J. was written as "a person first, a woman second" the author informed me and I think Rosa pulled it off really well. The story is told in the first person but I never got the impression I was reading a "girly" book. J.J. is smart, capable, unsure of herself, and more; I could easily see almost any gender or race telling the story. There are many characters that are unique and I wish we could have gotten to know them more.

COTL mostly deals with J.J. gathering allies for the upcoming war. She meets many new people and travels to different lands. There is a touch of everything for readers: action, romance, political intrigue, magic, and more.

I simply wish the book had been longer, mostly because I like a slow read and I'm not use to the fast-pace of YA novels. But I hope Rosa continues the series and we can learn more about the Loch and its world.

The eye-catching cover was created by the author herself. You can check out her review website Crimson Flower Reviews as well as her personal site.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Favorite Comic Book Artists

Like most kids, I got into comic books. At the beginning of my college life, I even wanted to be a comic book artist and was drawing quite a bit. I guess that was a way of telling myself I wanted to be a storyteller. Now I'm a writer but have recently been wanting to get back into reading comics. They have changed so much since the nineties, when I was really into them. But like most kids, a few artists have stuck with me. Below are some of the ones I loved as a kid and still do today.

Dan Jurgens
Working primarily for DC most of his career, Dan Jurgens created the heroes Booster Gold and Waverider, the iconic villain Doomsday (who killed Superman in the Death Of Superman storyline), as well as the Cyborg Superman. I was and still am a fan of Superman. He had four monthly titles going for him: Superman, Superman: Man Of Steel, The Adventures of Superman, and Action Comics. Superman artist Dan Jurgens was the first artist I remembering taking notice of. I liked his art more than the other three Superman artists, it was more heroic and well-drawn. He is the definitive Superman artist for me. You can follow him on Twitter.

Greg Capullo
On the complete flip side of Superman was Spawn. It took me a while to like Greg Capullo's work but it grew on me. His human characters seemed a bit cartoony but his angels and demons were realistic and dark, creating a nice contrast. His level of detail added to the grittiness of the title. Besides comic books, his art has adorned the covers of Korn's album Follow The Leader and Disturbed's Ten Thousand Fists. He has his own Facebook Page.

J. Scott Campbell
When Campbell said he wanted readers to experience the motion and thrill of a movie car chase on the printed page, he succeeded with Danger Girl. He is best known for Gen-13 and the unrealistic, oversexualized portrayals of female characters but his style was fun. He has the same detail and exciting energy of Brett Booth and Jim Lee but his art had a manga-esque whimsy to it. He has his own DeviantArt page

Brett Booth
Most of my favorite artists came from Image Comics, the company founded by six high profile artists  (Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Erik Larsen, and Jim Valentino) who left the Big Two (DC and Marvel) to found their own independent company. Brett Booth was an artist hired by Image and I was blown away by his level of detail and line work. His pieces were dynamic and rich. He also works as a paleoartist, drawing dinosaurs for various publications and websites. Check out his blog.

Rob Liefeld
Only recently have I gotten interested in Liefeld and I wish I had done so sooner. The creator of Deadpool and Cable, he is a love-him-or-hate-him guy. He has had rocky relationships with his Image partners and his self-taught art style is often ridiculed for its over-the-top anatomical proportions, large guns, and tiny misshapen feet. But he is fun. His stories and art are just like what a young kid wants to read and there is nothing wrong with that. He is the Michael Bay of the comic book world and he is entertaining, pure and simple. Rob Liefeld Creations is his website.

Jim Lee
If I had to pick one artist to admire, it would be Jim Lee. He penciled and co-wrote (with Chris Claremont) the series X-Men, whose first issue is the number one selling comic book of all time. He studied to be a doctor but became an artist and his art reflects his knowledge of human anatomy. His work is dynamic and detailed and he is a good storyteller as well. He created or co-created many of my favorite comic characters. The character in the picture is Fairchild. I managed to get this picture signed by him at DragonCon several years ago. One of my favorite characters signed by my favorite artist. Here is his fan page.

There you go everyone. I hope you enjoyed it. Who were some of your favorite characters and artists? As always, please comment below and thanks for reading.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Japan: Summer Break Isn't Really A Break

Summer vacation. The phrase means three months of freedom from the rigors of school. Long car trips, camping out, and s'mores. Almost 12 weeks of "No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers's dirty looks", as the Alice Cooper song goes. If possible, you avoided the school building like a swamp and that final month of summer was agonizing, counting down the days until a whole new year started and the grind began again. It's not quite the same in Japan.

Keep in mind, I have only worked in junior high schools. Elementary and high schools are run slightly different but there are many similarities. And also, when talking about different cultures, not everything is the same across the board. Just the same way there are small differences from school distrct to school district in America, it is the same in Japan. But a lot of the following seems to be pretty standard.

The school year starts in April in Japan and ends in March. There is only a two week break between the two. Summer vacation, starting in July, lasts about six weeks. Yep, barely a month and a half. If you are in a school club; mostly sports like basketball, tennis, baseball, and volleyball, you'll be expected to come to the school every day for club practice. This includes weekends. Most of the practices last about five hours, either outside or in the gym. Keep in mind, schools and school gyms have no central heat and air. That's right, no a/c in the gym during the day in August.

What happened to school books and pencils during summer break in America? Mostly tossed into closets and pushed under beds, never to be seen again until they are covered with dust bunnies when resurrected three months later. Again, it's different in Japan because the students are assigned summer homework. Given out on the last day of school, they are expected to be turned in when classes start back up.

While this may seem somewhat draconian for the students, it isn't much better for the teachers. Almost every teacher is involved in a club; if their students practice during the summer they have to be there as well. Also, many of the teachers take turns being at the school for security. Every day, at least one teacher is there for about eight hours to make sure it isn't vandalized or being improperly used. This includes weekends as well. Also, it is not allowed for teachers to get a part-time, second job. No chance of earning extra income during the year.

This isn't all doom and gloom. Some students and teachers don't have summer clubs. The prime traveling season is during Obon week in August, when most families go on trips and to festivals. Fireworks and festivals are in abundance during the summer, with most activities in the afternoons and evenings, giving students a chance to relax.

Questions or comments? Leave them below. As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

MSH Blog Tour Week 15: Finished

"What did you learn from this blog tour? Did you learn any useful new skills? Hone existing skillls?Did you gain any followers for your blog? Have you sold any books while on the tour? What other ways has this blog tour benefited you and would you do it again?" Those are the questions posed to me on the final week of the MSH blog tour.
For the most part, I enjoyed this blog tour. It was organized differently from what I'm use to but it was interesting. I think we hit some rough patches but it seemed most of the authors had fun.
I can't say that I really learned anything from it, aside from all the different perspectives different authors bring to the same questions. It was fun to read all of the different points of view.

I didn't sell any books during the tour because mine has been released yet. I didn't buy any, either.

With a few modifications (which I don't want to talk about on such a public forum) I'd contribute to the MSH blog tour again.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

To Boldly Go… Gene Roddenberry Tribute

During the month of August To Boldly Go… hosted a tribute to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. I asked several author friends to contribute a post talking about what Star Trek meant to them. I was very grateful for the response I had received. I'd like to thank the authors and I'm reposting the links to each week of the tribute in case anyone missed it or you'd like to read the entire work.

Week 1: Cody L. Martin, Elizabeth Delana Rosa
A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry

Week 2: Valerie Douglas, Karen A. Wyle, Dayton Ward
A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry Week 2

Week 3: Jaqueline Driggers, L. Anne Wooley, Dan Peyton
A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry Week 3

Week 4: Cassidy Frazee, R.K. Wigal, David Mack
A Tribute To Gene Roddenberry Week 4

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Author Spotlight: Jim Musgrave


Jim & Ellen Musgrave
September's Author Spotlight is on Jim Musgrave.

************************

Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I am a retired college professor of English (24 years), and I also worked at Caltech in Pasadena as the Supervisor of Management Development at the Industrial Relations Center. I also worked as an editor, TV news writer, and freelance journalist. I now devote my time to my fiction and to an editing business, English Majors Publishers and Editors, LLC. I am married to Ellen, who is also a retired college professor, and we live in San Diego.

Do you write under a pen name? 
I wrote some horror under the name “E. Z. Graves” and “Efraim Z. Graves. ” Most of my fiction is under “Jim Musgrave. ”

What’s your writing background? When did you begin writing and what inspired you? 
I was inspired by an inner need to create with words, and I was an autodidact, as my immediate family did not have a writer in its midst. In high school, I was on the school newspaper and year book, and in college I majored in Radio and TV Communications. My Master’s Degree was in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. I write both genre and literary work, as well as non-fiction.

What books have you written so far? 
Forevermore: A Pat O’Malley Historical Mystery 
Disappearance at Mount Sinai: A Pat O’Malley Historical Mystery 
Jane the Grabber: A Pat O’Malley Historical Steampunk Mystery 
The Digital Scribe: A Writer’s Guide to Electronic Media 
Lucifer’s Wedding 
Sins of Darkness 
Russian Wolves 
Iron Maiden an Alternate History 
The Necromancers or Love Zombies of San Diego 
Freak Story: 1967-1969 
The President’s Parasite and Other Stories 
The Mayan Magician and Other Stories 
Catalina Ghost Stories

Are your books or characters based on real life? 
Yes, since I writer “historical fiction, ” many of my characters are based on actual people. However, they are given dialogue to reflect the plot of my story.

Who is your favorite character from your books? Why? 
Detective Patrick James O’Malley from my historical mystery series. He is a Civil War hero who is out of a job, and he has psychological hang-ups like many vets do. I like him because I grew-up in a Navy family, and I am also a vet.


How long does it take you to write your book/s? 
I can write one of my Detective Pat O’Malley books in two months. They are always 12 chapters (with a prologue and epilogue) and run under 60,000 total words.

Do you plan or write by the seat of your pants? 
I have a clear focus for the plot, but I write each chapter to “surprise myself. ” If I am not interested, then I imagine my reader will follow suit. Therefore, I need to include surprises that happen to the characters and cause them to react/think/plan.

What makes your writing unique? 
I can easily weave actual history and setting details into my story lines to serve my plotting needs.

Any advice for the editing process? 
Hire a professional.

Are you published or self-published? What is your experience? 
I have been published by a big publisher (Harcourt-Brace), and I have also published independently. My negative experience with the big publisher caused me to “go indie, ” and I have not regretted it as yet.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 
If you believe in yourself, then get somebody who is a “really good” writer (and not a relative or friend) to verify that belief. I did this with one Jacob M. Appel, a writer I met online who has recently won the prestigious Dundee (Scotland) International Literary Novel Award. Jacob also teaches writing in New York City, and he was won more story contests than any writer I have ever known. When he said my writing was “superb” and he compared me to guys like T. C. Boyle, Tom Wolfe, George Saunders and Steven Millhauser, and I really started taking myself seriously! Unless you get accolades from other writers, then I would not consider fiction writing as a profession. There are too many scam artist publishers and vanity presses out there to “fly by the seat of your pants. ” Besides, it gives us indie authors a bad name when too much crap is published to muddy the readers’ waters. Their time is too precious to be wasted on “wannabes. ”

What books have most influenced your life?
 Camus’ The Stranger. All of Franz Kafka’s work (he should be read like history). Mark Twain’s work (humans are funny).

Who is your favorite character from any book and why? 
Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye because he was like me as a teenager.

For reading, do you prefer ebooks or physical books?
Ebooks.

If there was one author you could meet with and learn from one on one, who would you choose? 
Either Shirley Jackson or Lawrence Block.

If you could write a book with any current author, who would it be and why? 
Jacob M. Appel because he likes to add humor to his literary fiction the way I do.

What is the best review of your work you've received to date? 
My short stories were reviewed by Jacob M. Appel (The Mayan Magician and Other Stories). He said: “With the publication of The Mayan Magician and Other Stories, Jim Musgrave joins the ranks of the George Saunders, Steven Millhauser and Kevin Brockmeier at the heart of the modern American short story’s second great renaissance. Musgrave writes with commanding authority of both the past and the future, of adventures at home and abroad. He is a skilled stylist and a powerful raconteur. Musgrave’s characters are memorable, courageous, and—like his prose—intensely compelling. ”

What format(s) are your books available in? 
Paperback and ebook. There are also a few hard cover.

Is there anything else you would like to share or tell us?
Thanks for letting me share! Keep writing and reading. I’ll be appearing in San Diego at the Upstart Crow in Seaport Village on August 29, 2013 (7-9 PM). I’ll also be on a variety of online blogs starting on August 27, 2013 and continuing for 90 days.

Pat O’Malley Historical Steampunk Mysteries


************************

I'd like to thank Jim Musgrave for stopping by. Be sure to check out his books. As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

MSH Blog Tour Week 13: Scenes

"What is the hardest scene for you to write?  Is it a battle scene?  A transition? Bridge? A luuuuuurrrve scene?  What have you done to overcome these hard spots and improve your writing?" That is the writing prompt for this week's MSH blog tour post.

I find action sequences to be the hardest to write, especially fight scenes. To be clear, action scenes and fight scenes are a little different in my mind. While each one has elements of the other, fight scenes are fights between two or more people while action scenes often involve running, moving, and usually non-living things. The car-flipping chase in Bad Boys 2 is an action scene (and probably my favorite car chase scene of all time) while Hulk versus Thor in The Avengers is a fight scene.

When writing them, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of the scene is. This will determine the majority of the action, as well as whose POV it should be. Not every action or fight scene has to be from the hero's point of view, you may want to do it from the villain's. But whomever you chose, make sure you don't head hop during the scene. This may be the most difficult thing to do in action/battle scenes with multiple participants. In Adventure Hunters I had to tackle this when Regina gets kidnapped. It was easy as a screenplay but once I turned it into a novel I had to make sure I didn't hop from person to person. I wrote the scene by splitting the focus between Artorius, Regina, and Lisa but by not repeating everything that had already happened. I also mentioned, after I switched to a different person, that they were aware of what the others in the scene were doing. For example, after leaving Lisa's head and moving into Artorius's, who was engaged in a dual, I mentioned that he knew of Lisa's fight that was happening as well. I broke each new head hop into a different section and tried to keep a sense of continuity by having each character comment, however briefly, on the previous action.

I often have a specific image I want to work into an action scene and work around it. If you want a rooftop chase sequence, you have to figure out how all the players get to the roof, why are they there, hazards of running up there, and a million other questions.

I find writing action sequences like car chases and such easier to write then fight scenes. The pitfall of fights is to write every swing, punch, and kick. You get too bogged down in details. I think the key is to highlight specific, special moves while glossing over the regular punches. If it is a martial arts fight, like in The Matrix, the kicks and punches come fast. You don't need to write where every hit lands, but what about special moves like the throat jab Neo gives Agent Smith. Detail works good for action sequences, but specific, highlighted action written powerfully work best in fights.

I often sit and visualize the action, trying to see it as a movie. Then I'll write a little bit, stop and visualize, then repeat until the scene is done. It is good to review your scene after you write it, especially with action scenes they tend to read much faster and seem shorter than when you're writing them. If you want a long sequence, like the highway chase from The Matrix Reloaded or rescuing the airplane from Superman Returns, you may find yourself needing to add elements.

That's all I have for this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Japan: Japanese Thoughts On America


Last post, I gave signs that a foreigner has been living in Japan too long. Now is the flip side: signs that a Japanese person has been in America too long, which was originally posted here. It's amazing the things that we take for granted being the same all over the world. 

“You know you’ve been in America for too long when…” jokes written by Japanese people.

These jokes are an excellent insight into the cultural differences between the United States and Japan. If you don’t understand why a Japanese person would associate these behaviors or ways of thinking with being in America too long, do ask in the comments, and we’ll get some explanation.
You’ve been in the U.S. too long when…
…you wear a T-shirt even in winter.
…you blow your nose in public.
…you don’t wear skirts any more.
…you feel you’re lucky when the train has arrived 5 minutes late.
…you think it’s natural to say thank you to a cashier in a supermarket.
…you use paper napkins like water.
…you are not surprised when you see a very fat person, and you feel you are slim.
…you don’t mind using a dowdy umbrella.
…you don’t even carry an umbrella.
…you feel uncomfortable when a shop staff bows to you.
…you go across a street when the light is red but there are no cars.
You don’t feel inconvenienced even if you don’t handle actual cash for an entire month.
When you’re able to drink blue or green colored soft drinks without hesitating at all.
When the fact that your waitress is wearing shocking pick nail polish doesn’t surprise you one bit.
When you’re watching a Japanese movie or television show, and for some reason you feel something isn’t quite right… After a while you realize that it’s because everyone is driving on the left side of the road.
When you receive compliments from others you’re not humble at all and just say “thanks”.
When you have your glasses or contact lenses prescription adjusted, and the strength of the new prescription doesn’t surprise you at all.
When you’re not excited or impressed at all when you see a real gun.
When you’re amazed at the cleanliness of the toilets in Narita Airport.
When you begin to think that you haven’t completely brushed your teeth unless you have also flossed.
When you start eating Oyakodon with a spoon.
When don’t think anything of young girls wearing camisoles that completely reveal their bra straps. To the contrary, when you let your guard down you find yourself doing the same as well.
When you’re back in Japan at a public toilet and realize that the people around you aren’t letting the water make a splashing sound when they’re peeing.
When find the the date format of, “2007/10/01″ a little strange.
When you see a size 30 cm women’s shoe in the shoe store and you don’t even respond, “Geez that’s huge!”
When someone tells you that, “American food tastes bad”, you think, “really?”
When you’ve got pictures decorating your desk at work.
When, for the past 10 years or so, you’ve had no idea what year it is according to the Heisei calendar.
When you leave a space of about 50 cm between you and the person lining up in front of you at the supermarket.
When your “skirt to pants” ratio becomes 1:4 (meaning you own 4 times as many pants as you do skirts, for girls of course).
When you have completely lost the habit of dividing up your trash.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Happy Birthday: James Cameron

James Cameron was born August 16, 1954. He is a filmmaker famous for having the top two highest-grossing films of all time (Avatar and Titanic), as well as directing The Terminator, Aliens, and others.

This one was a little more difficult. Why do I like the self-proclaimed "king of the world?" He doesn't have distinct visual style like Michael Bay or John Woo, but I rarely miss a Cameron film and often end up buying them. His action pieces are awesome, but what elevates him above the likes of Len Wiseman and others. I had to think about it. For one, he is consistent. Almost every film is a hit and very few are duds.

It finally hit me that his films are balanced. Possibly more than any other action director, or at least more consistently than any other action director, Cameron can balance action with human drama and characterization. This is extremely difficult to do. By their very nature, action films are action oriented. If you focus too much on that, critics and moviegoers say your films are shallow and popcorn fluff. If you focus too much on drama, the film is boring, trying too hard, and so on.

Cameron has managed to find a balance between characterization and action in almost every movie he has done. In Aliens, every character was unique and you knew what each one was like before they met their demise. You got the sense of the family dynamic between Sarah Connor and her son in Terminator 2: Judgement Day amid the explosions and chases. You saw Sully's struggle to follow orders and at the same time come to appreciate the Nav'i in Avatar.

While he brings the drama, he also tries to push the envelope in filmmaking and present something new. It was a brilliant decision by him to go in a completely opposite direction for the sequel to Alien. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, it may have failed terribly. That is another good trait of his, the arrogance to believe that what he is doing is right. Titanic? Everyone knows the ending: ship sinks. But he believed the story he had would work. You have to be a bit arrogant and self-confident to be a director (or an artist of any kind). You have to believe in your work.

What're your favorite Cameron films? Comment below and as always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Japan: Maybe I've Been Here Too Long

I came across this post and had to share it. I didn't write it and the credit goes to the original poster. It is an interesting insight into a different culture. Lists like this are funnier to the people living them but I believe even my friends not in Japan will appreciate. It offers a glimpse into culture that no travel guide can point out. If you have any questions or comments after reading this, I'd love to answer them. And for the record, a lot of these apply to me.





The 101 Signs You've Been in Japan Too Long

posted by John Spacey, Japan Talk, September 19, 2012

At some point every foreign resident of Japan starts to wonder — have I been here too long? Here are the top signs you've been in Japan so long that you're basically Japanese:


1. When you're outside Japan you still call non-Japanese gaijin.

2. You've continued to work through a shindo 3 earthquake without slowing down or bothering to mention it.

3. You're giving the peace sign in most of your Facebook photos. 

4. You start to get nervous when there are too many gaijin in a bar. 

5. You don't find engrish funny anymore. 

 


6. You're allergic to cedar. 

7. Most of your vacations are geared towards taking hot baths. 

8. You've started to reserve seats with your wallet / purse. You don't have the slightest worry that it might be stolen. 

9. You get the urge to stare at gaijin. 

10. You bow when you're on the phone. 

11. You no longer feel that 3 seat bars are all that small. 

12. You regularly use a manga cafe as a hotel

13. When your train is one minute late you start to think it's your fault (maybe you have the wrong information). 

14. You no longer remember the English names for most types of fish. 

15. You're curious about people's blood type. 

16. You join Japanese bus tours outside of Japan. 

17. You've started buying those strange English t-shirts. 

 



18. You can't read a book in public that doesn't have a book cover. 

19. You're starting to believe that romaji is English. 

20. You ask people to "teach" you their phone number. 

21. You own a mama chari

22. It no longer bothers you that OIOI is pronounced marui. 

23. You get annoyed when young Japanese people use informal Japanese. 

24. You've become extremely nostalgic about sakura

25. You regularly sleep at work

26. You've often wished you had a doko demo door. 

27. You remember important dates by the heisei (平成) year. 

28. You start to think that oyaji gyagu are funny (the corny jokes told by middle aged Japanese men). 

29. You can ride a bicycle with a tiny clear plastic umbrella and not get wet. 





30. You can wear a yukata properly. 

31. You mumble Oh toh toh toh when someone pours your beer for you. 

32. You start feeling that many Japanese futon are too soft. 



33. You say heeeeey a lot. 

34. You enjoy cooking your own food at restaurants. 

35. You don't pull over when police flash their lights. 

36. At the first sign of a cold you wear a mask. 

37. You often ask police for directions. 

38. You can sing enka at Karaoke. 

39. When you use a taxi in your home country — you wait for the door to open automatically. 

40. You have accidentally apologized in Japanese in your home country. 

41. You don't feel Shibuya is all that crowded. 

42. You turn your headlights off when you come to a stoplight. 

43. You eat curry rice (kare raisu) at least once a week. 

44. Paying two months reikin (gift money) for an apartment doesn't bother you. 

45. You can hum the don quixote song. 

46. You can do seiza for 30 minutes without complaining. 

47. You can eat Cream Collon without giggling. 

48. You never travel with a toothbrush. 
Japanese hotels always provide a toothbrush 

49. (woman) You go naked at onsen without thinking about it but would never go topless at a beach. 

50. You think Chinese Kanji is hilarious. 

51. You run for the train in a panic because there won't be another one for 1 minute. 

52. You've taken a 3 day vacation that involves a 8 hour (or longer) flight. 

53. You only know the size of your apartment in 畳(jyou). 

54. You think of the "Japanese only" line at Narita as a status symbol. 

55. You don't mind when every channel on television is talking about food. 

56. You get the urge to yell sumimasen at restaurants in your home country. 

57. You started to think that noodles are an ok filling for a sandwich. 




58. You're starting to doubt your English pronunciation of Rs and Ls. 

59. You bought a little plastic chair for your shower. 

60. You have mastered more than one Japanese martial art. 



61. You drink corn soup from a can. 

62. You own more than 8 umbrellas. 

63. You can't take an international flight without buying duty free. 

64. You have used a stranger for support when sleeping on a train. 

 

65. You're starting to add -san to the names of other gaijin. 

66. You are starting to think natto tastes good. 

67. You chose your bank by its cartoon character. 

68. Your friends back home ask you what "genki" means. 

69. You look for umbrella condoms when you enter stores outside Japan. 

70. You've become very picky about rice. 

71. You think it's normal for people over 30 to read comics (manga) on the train. 

72. You bow when you shake hands. 

73. You think there's food in the basement of all department stores. 

74. You have a gold drivers license. 

75. You're not angry when politicians with loudspeakers wake you up at 8 on Saturday morning. 

76. You complain that young people these days are losing their kanji skills. 

77. You think 20 minutes is too long for lunch

78. You always back-in when you park — no matter what the situation. 

79. When you return to your home country you take lots of photos at the supermarket

80. You started to believe that bicycle related crime is a very serious problem. 

81. You complain about the dangerous lack of vending machines outside Japan. 

82. You have slept standing on a train. 

 

83. You're starting to think that coffee in a can tastes alright. 

84. You reserve half of your luggage space for omiyage (souvenirs). 

85. You buy kitchen appliances based on the songs they can sing. 

86. You have purchased eggs from a vending machine. 

87. You no longer get lost in Shinjuku station

88. You don't hesitate when you put 10,000 yen into a train ticket vending machine. 

89. You can't use a toilet that doesn't have lots of buttons. 

90. You've asked for an "American coffee" when you're in America. 

91. You believe that there's an onsen to cure all aliments. 

92. You're starting to get Japanese comedy shows. 

93. You think that corn & mayonnaise is a perfectly reasonable topping for pizza. 

94. You know the theme songs for most of the products at your local konbini (convenience store). 

95. You have said the phrase moshiwake gozaimasen

96. You buy sake by the jug. 

 

97. (man) You never give presents on valentines day

98. When someone is talking you say "unn" a lot to show that you're listening. 

99. You no longer mind having to pay for NHK. 

100. You have a hanko. 

101. You think stoplights are red, yellow and blue

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Gene Roddenberry Tribute At In Genre

I have a special writing event going on this month. At In Genre, every Tuesday will be special posts celebrating the birthday of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Posts from myself and other authors, such as Elizabeth Delana Rosa, Lisa Wooley, as well as Star Trek professionals David Mack and Dayton Ward, among others, will be put onto the website every Tuesday. Click the link below to read what everyone has to say about Star Trek and what it has meant to them. http://ingenre.com/category/ccontent/to-boldly-go/