Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?

Summer

Holy balls it’s hot here, you guys.  Like, melt into a puddle the moment you step foot outside hot.  Even the hallways in the apartment building are hot and they’re theoretically air conditioned.  It’s get your errands done early in the day hot.  It’s carry an insulated bag for your milk hot.  It’s so hot nobody even wants to wear their skin let alone clothes hot.  And it’s not just the temperature that’s got everyone sweating.  It’s so humid that stepping outside feels like wearing a damp wool bag over your whole body.  It’s so humid that the laundry takes forever to dry on the line.  It’s an itchy, prickly, sticky, soupy heat.

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My kakigouri was lemon, but The Boy prefers melon flavor.

That said, there are ways around it.  You can stay in your apartment with the AC on and play video games (or write!) all day.  The only trouble is that you start to feel a little stir crazy after a bit— especially with an active 8 year old boy involved!  If you can survive the walk, head to a mall or a shopping arcade of some sort.  Always pleasantly air conditioned there’s usually enough to do to spend a few hours.  We could try to figure out how to get to a beach of some sort, but wed have to go buy swimsuits first, and then get on the train for a while, and… well.

So instead we’re settling for a combination of the two above options, with a few others thrown in.  The Boy has developed an instant love of kakigouri and melon soda, and I can’t blame him.  There’s always ice cream, as well.  We each have folding fans we carry around, and can I tell you how much I love my new parasol?  Love.

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Finished setting up!  Now’s the calm before the crowds…

There are benefits to summer, though.  Fireworks and summer festivals and the abundance of produce at the shop across the street.  I enjoy the sound of the cicadas in the odd quiet moment, though I know they drive some folks crazy.  I do wish we had a little space to grew some plants, but then, we do have a small balcony and now a potted rosemary, so we may be closer to a container gardener life than I’d thought.

It’s hot, sure, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying the season anyway.  At the risk of melting every time we go out, I still like to walk to the market and see what’s there, and discovering what’s going on at the park we walk through to get there.  You never know when you’ll find a festival, and where there’s a festival, there’s probably kakigouri.

Life, large and small

14949202534_bacd339174_bI had a blog post all written out but when I looked at it this morning, I kind of hated it.  So I scrapped it and here we are. Post-less and out of ideas first thing on Monday morning.  Ah well.

If you’re following my Facebook or my Instagram, you’ll have seen some of our adventures this weekend.  We got out and about and played, and left our son’s backpack on the train, and got the bag back with everything but his Nintendo Switch.  We had some amazing food, saw some awesome people, and I still have some photos left to post later this week

I got to practice my terrible Japanese a little, which is honestly pretty surprising.  I’m one of that terribly self-conscious sort of people who don’t want to sound like an idiot in any language, and when it’s a language you don’t know well… Well.  But my husband’s friend is super cool and I felt pretty comfortable to try my limited Japanese on her, and in return, she used her somewhat less limited English on me.  We both had beers and honestly, it was kind of perfect.  I hope we get to hang out some more soon.

When we got home last night, we were getting ready for bed, and my husband made a comment about how he can tell that I’m really here now.  When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to the small desk he was standing next to and pointed.

“I’ve never been so happy to see coffee rings,” he said.  I, naturally, threw a pillow at him, but honestly?  I love you too, sweetheart. And I’ll start using a coaster, thanks.

 

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Coffee rings are a symbol of love.  I think.   Photo credit: roger.karlsson on Visual hunt / CC BY

Social life

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Shibuya scramble, photo from Visualhunt

our first week in Tokyo was spent almost entirely in the apartment.  Jet lag, rain, a nasty cold, and just plain exhaustion combined to keep me and The Boy inside playing video games and watching TV.  I didn’t mind too terribly much, but on top of my already shattered attention span, it really hasn’t helped my productive output, word out wise.    I did have a couple of fairly productive days, overall, but not nearly as much as I should have, and I’m feeling a wee bit guilty about that.

On top of that, I’m feeling pretty drained, creatively speaking.  What little energy I’ve had this past week has been all about organization and practical stuff.  Go to the Ward Office and get our papers in order.  Go buy a shelving solution for my clothes.  Figure out how to use the washing machine and the cooking appliances.  (Our microwave is also our oven, and all the instructions are in kanji.  I’ve been cooking everything on the stovetop.)

group-day-out-man-people-friends-park-strolling.jpgSo I took the weekend off.  Well, mostly, but even though our shopping trip was to Daiso for household supplies, it was still out at a mall and we got to do some window shopping.  We went out to lunch, looked at the capsule machines, even managed to hit up a kaiten sushi place!  Saturday night we got to hang out with several folks for popsicles and chatting and fun.  We saw another friend for lunch on yesterday, and last night, we went to the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya to meet a  friend and enjoy a collaboration cafe for a Granblue Fantasy Cafe experience.  It was silly and fun and the food was surprisingly decent!

I had an amazing weekend talking to other adult human beings and going outside the

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My husband and several plates of Granblue Fantasy themed food!

apartment.   I’m afraid that at a few points I managed to complete word-vomit all over them because I guess I’d had all the chattiness saved up from the past few days.  I mean, I’m introverted, not antisocial, and I’ve been effectively sealed in a box for a week!

It’s a little overboard, probably because everyone wants to see us finally AND they’re in town for a convention, but still.  It’s been really good to see people and be out among other human beings.  I think that when I sit down to work out my next few chapters, I’ll be in better shape to actually get my creativity flowing.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do mid-week to recharge when I need it and it’s just me and The Boy…. Anyone have any suggestions?

Jet lag is not for sissies

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I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

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Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!

Summer vacation?

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Okay, not really a vacation that’s vacation-ish, where I get to hang out with my family and rest up and do fun stuff, although some of that’s probably going to happen if I’m lucky.  You all know that The Boy and I are moving soon.  From the East Coast of the U.S. to Tokyo Japan.  It’s causing just a wee little bit of stress here at Chez Kim, and I’m totally handling it in very healthy ways like not starting to drink immediately after getting up in the morning.  

Basically, everyone I know is a bit concerned for my health, and self-care has become a rather vital thing in my life.  As a result, I’m going to be dialing it back here a little since I have to focus on packing and making sure we have the tickets and passports and all the things, and then I have to figure out unpacking and how to re-jam together two households back into one household and sort out our new schedules and… well.  Life.  I’m a little shocked that the Anxiety Gnomes haven’t launched an attack, but then I think even they’re exhausted by everything so, small blessings?

14949202534_bacd339174_bSo for the next month (August, basically), I’m going to be posting here only once a week.  I’m going to keep up with the Patreon page since the short story is almost ready to post now, and I have the chapter available for preview.  I should have a book cover by the end of the month as well, so that’s going to be fun.  Also, I’ll be posting some Adventures over on Instagram, because that’s pretty quick.

Mostly, though, I’m going to spend August focusing on how to get our lives rolling in Tokyo and getting Brewing Trouble finished up.  And trying to help my friends live vicariously by going to places they want to go and taking copious photos.  Any requests?

Timeline

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I am not a cover designer, but I do my best… It’ll look nicer when they’re all collected.

As you know, I’ve been writing short stories to premiere on my Patreon page.  The first is up now, but I’ve got the second and third already in process for the next two months.  That’s, unfortunately, been a bit of a problem.

You see, This first story is current.  That is, it’s about Cassie, and her adventures just after the events of Finding Insight.  The second story is about Gabe and happens in the middle of Brewing Trouble, which I’m still writing.  Made it a bit easier to overlap the events, at least!  But… the third story is about Marcus and takes place way back just near the beginning of Finding Insight, or just before.

Which, while I felt pretty inspired by the story itself, caused some serious hiccuping in my brain.  I had to remember what happened in that book, for one thing, but more importantly, I had to remember what hadn’t happened yet.  I gamely started in on it and to my chagrin, my mind switched gears quickly and I managed to finish the story in a few days to send out to my beta readers.  I was thrilled!  I could get right back to Brewing Trouble and keep my momentum going!

So I sat and stared at a blank screen for two days.  Because my brain couldn’t catch up again.  I had a book hangover from the short story I just wrote, and couldn’t get back into the right part of the time stream of the series.

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Where’d these new characters come from?  We just introduced Marcus and Cassie, right?  All that stuff with Kai in the basement just happened, didn’t it?  I mean… how is he so totally healed up already? And, and, and… Augh!

So I’ve had to forcibly retrain my brain into the right timeline.  It’s slow going, but I’m getting back to it finally, which is good since I was hoping to be almost done with this one before our move next month and I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Ah well.

Space Patrol

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Photo credit: darastar via Visual Hunt / CC BY

The packing continues.  The Boy’s sheets and most of our winter clothes are in a box and in a couple of hours I’ll trek down to the post office to ship it all to Tokyo.  We’re not really taking much, but that still ends up being a ton of stuff.  So much that I’m surprised, actually.   Clothes take up a remarkable amount of space, it turns out.  I’ve been going through all the stuff I don’t wear, or don’t love, and the pile for the charity shop is getting to be fairly substantial.  That doesn’t even count the kid clothes I’m pulling because The Boy is growing like kids do.

It’s a good thing he’s got a fancy whole-apartment-in-one bed from Ikea, or we’d never have anywhere to put The Boy’s things.  In addition to the clothes and the bedding, he’s got an army of stuffed animals that he will die without.  And books (in English and Japanese) that he requires for his continued good health.  And Legos.  I have tried to explain that we won’t have all the space there that we have here in his grandparents’ house, but it’s like shouting at a rock.

And, of course, all his school things are there already as well.  We’re sort-of homeschooling until his Japanese reading and writing catches up a bit to his peers, and the online school we’re going through has sent two boxes of supplies, from books to an inflatable globe to art supplies.  His desk and shelves and dresser will be full to overflowing with his things and it’s going to be an adventure keeping everything tidy.

Meanwhile, I get two shelves in closet and no room for all my books.  I’m heartbroken, my bed doesn’t even have fancy drawers under it!  Kids get the best stuff.    What would you take if you had to live essentailly out of a suitcase?

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But where do I put all my books?!!!      Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Character building

One of the things I’ve been working on with the short stories I’m writing is trying to improve my character work.  Without characters, after all, a story doesn’t go very well.  Actually, I suppose it can, but that sort of writing is way beyond my skill.  I’m willing to go a pretty long way for a good character, and let’s be honest.  More often than not the character is what catch us for a good adventure.

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Photo credit: Marvin (PA) via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

I’ve been coming across some fantastic characters recently, both in books and in real life.  While I’m considering how the books I’ve plowed through showed these characters— the craft part of writing— I’ve also been trying to capture the characters I’ve been seeing in real life.  There’s the young man who is always reaching out to touch his friends.  It’s not anything aggressive or needy, but a hand on a shoulder or a laughing hip-check seems to be a constant thing for him, and his friends not only don’t mind, they seem to support this tactile young man by reciprocating.

There’s the grizzled older man in fatigue pants who turned to reveal that his black t-shirt is, in fact, covered in sequins.  The woman with the amazing lilac leather jacket and vinyl rainbow purse.  I see these people and want to know their stories.  I want to hear about the amazing adventures or heartbreaking tragedies they’ve got hidden behind the surface of what I can see while sitting at the cafe table. There are amazing characters everywhere if you’re paying attention, and my goal recently is to be able to do them justice when I put them down on the page.

words words words

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svenstorm on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Okay, I’m not a fan of Hamlet (really, don’t start me on it,) but it’s got some good quotes to steal and use as post titles.

I’ve been having a lovely email conversation with a fellow writer, and we got onto the topic of motivation and actually getting that first freaking draft written.  It’s tough, I’m not going to lie, slogging through something that is mostly pretty ephemeral in my head and getting it onto the page in a way that makes sense.  I’ll get stuck, then I’ll mess around on Facebook, or play a video game, or hide in my room and read… but none of that gets a book written.  So, in order to actually make forward progress, I’ll to set myself daily goals because I am a firm believer in momentum. (I can still hear my high school physics teacher chanting momentum is a vector in my head.  It’s a weird memory to have, but was clearly an effective teaching technique.)

I try to hit my word count every day, and I’m not terribly ambitious so it’s not a huge number of words.  NaNoWriMo has a goal of writing 50,000 words in November to finish your novel, and I use that as a basic goal for my books.  That translates into 1667 words a day and I’m not in so much of a hurry, so my personal goal is 1000.  On a good day when I have an idea of where I’m going, I can get that done easily enough, and often sprint past the NaNo goal as well, but on days where I have to be on, or have too much Adulting to do, or even just am not happy with the scene and how I’m getting from A to B within it, I have difficulty dragging even a handful of words out of my brain.

The other end of it, of course, is that I seem to have trouble stretching my books out toStockSnap_XAZG2TR9PW actual novel length.  Granted, the definition of ‘novel length’ itself is pretty unsettled.  NaNoWriMo defines it as a story of 50,000 words or more.  Writer’s Digest seems to advocate for 80,000 words.  Many books in Kindle Unlimited list their word counts and I see 90,000, 100,000, even use to 140,000 on a pretty regular basis.  Makes me feel a bit self-conscious about my short books.

But, I always remind myself that it’s not the word count that’s important.  It’s the story, and if I can serve the story best by using fewer words, then so be it.  I’m not writing epic fantasy.  For one thing, it’s not my strong suit and for another, I’d never make it to the 100,000+ words that those stories tend to take.  NaNoWriMo has set a bar at 50K and that’s been pretty generally accepted, so I aim just slightly higher at 55K.  I might hit that and I might not, and then editing changes everything.

For now, I’ve got about 10K down, 45K left to go on this one.