Thursday, October 18, 2018

Pre-orders available for ebook AND print!

My new Victoria Marmot urban-fantasy-with-a-hint-of-parody series is launching in just four more days and I am so very excited to announce that not only can you pre-order the ebooks everywhere that ebooks are sold, but you can even pre-order the paperbacks at your favorite online retailer. (Like, seriously, even my local indie has the pre-order link on their website, how cool is that?)

So, links? Covers? Here we go. Have a banner.... umm... I'm writing this on my phone so I think the banner is at the top. Meanwhile.... links!

Amazon: print and ebook
B&N: print and ebook
McNally Robinson: print
Everywhere else: ebook (search for Victoria Marmot on your preferred site for print if it's not one of the above; luckily, she has a unique name).

Other than that... well, life has been rather crazy actually... some good, some bad. I'll tell you more later, but be sure to come see me at GeekGirlCon if you're anywhere near Seattle on the 27th and 28th! I'll be at booth #814 all weekend as well as running a panel on Sunday at 4pm called Moms Who Geek! (Or How to Pursue Your Passions Even After You Procreate) Please, come say hi!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Cover Reveal for Victoria Marmot Book One

Sorry I disappeared in July and for most of August. July was a month full of memorizing lines, rehearsing, and then putting on a two week run of a play. It was stressful, but also fun, and kind of wonderful. August, in turn, was full of catching up on writing and traveling to celebrate with family.

I have been working away on the Victoria Marmot series. The first three books from this series (which will be at least six books long) will be published in October of this year. And now it's time to share the cover of Book 1 along with the pre-order links! This cover (and all three covers for the series so far) were designed by Natasha Snow and I love them.



I'll be back in September with even more information about all three Victoria Marmot books! For now, get your pre-order on! :-)

Here's a reminder about what the series is all about:

Victoria Marmot is just an average teenage girl... if by "average" you mean an orphaned, multi-lingual, martial arts expert who owns her own home may or may not have magical abilities.

When Vic is told her parents didn't die the way she thinks they did, her world is turned upside down and she's left with the task of finding out what really happened to them. But when her quest to uncover the truth reveals a massive conspiracy by a corrupt magical government, will her efforts save the world or take the whole universe down with her?

Monday, July 2, 2018

See you at GeekGirlCon in October!

I am very excited to announce that I will be attending GeekGirlCon in Seattle, WA this October (27th & 28th). I will be at a vendor's table all weekend, with both of my Chronicles of Gensokai books as well as (hopefully) all THREE new Victoria Marmot books. I will also be heading up an awesome panel called Mom's Who Geek: or How to Pursue Your Passions Even After You Procreate, which I will talk more about once I'm sure I've got the green light from GGC (the panel is definitely happening, but I don't know if I'm allowed to talk about who all will be on it etc. just yet).

I've already booked my flight, and I have made arrangements to stay with a friend, so this is all really happening. I'm so thrilled!

For those unfamiliar with GeekGirlCon I recommend clicking on the link provided and reading up on it, but basically, if you're a feminist nerd, it's paradise. So, please come see me there! It will be a ton of fun, in addition to possibly being the only physical launch of the Victoria Marmot books (though I might do a physical launch in Winnipeg afterwards, I haven't decided yet).

I'm off to get back to writing the Victoria Marmot books to make sure that they are all ready for October! See you in Seattle!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

BookBub roundup (in which I squee about being next to JK Rowling)!

Well, folks, it was a beautiful thing while it lasted, but BookBub* week is finally over.
*If you don't know what I'm talking about please click here to find out more from a previous blog post of mine.

"But wait, Virginia, why is it BookBub week? I thought BookBub featured deals were just a single e-mail sent out on a single day," you say, not unreasonably.

And you're not wrong. The actual BookBub featured deal is just a single e-mail sent out to a giant mailing list on one single day. However, BookBub is kind enough to feature your promotional price on their website for as long as it will last, so one can experience a nice increase in sales numbers for as long as one is inclined to keep the promotional price in place. Accordingly, I decided to keep Blade's Edge at 0.99 across all retailers until June 9th. I have since raised the price (or at least tried to, but Amazon has yet to bring the US price up even though all other retailers have done it) and sales have slowed, but I am pleased to report that sales have not stopped all together. Indeed, they seem to have leveled out a bit at a level that is quite a bit higher than the 0 copies per day that I was selling right after I took my books out of Kindle Unlimited and indeed it's even better than the average of two copies per day I was selling prior to that.

Indeed I've sold an average of 16 copies a day from the 10th to today. Of course, part of that is affected by the fact that Blade's Edge is still 0.99 on Amazon, so we shall see how it changes when the price finally adjusts, but I'm heartened to see that Traitor's Hope has been making up a larger and larger portion of my daily sales each day. It makes me think that a. people are willing to pay "full price" for my books and b. that people have actually been reading Blade's Edge and enjoying it enough to buy the second book.

Anyway, I'm sort of starting at the end here. Most of you probably haven't been following my stats posts on KBoards, so you have no idea how the BookBub itself went. If you'd like to read that stats post, you can find it here. That post details how many sales I made per day, per retailer, from June 4th to June 9th and also mentions the rankings that Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope both had over the course of the week.

For the link averse, here's a brief summary:

On June 4th Blade's Edge sold 976 copies across all retailers and Traitor's Hope sold 33 copies across all retailers.

Between June 4th and June 9th (the dates that Blade's Edge was listed on the BookBub website as a 0.99 deal) Blade's Edge sold a total of 1464 copies across all retailers and Traitor's Hope sold 70 copies.

On Amazon Blade's Edge's highest ranking was #1 in the category of Children's Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Books (which is a weird category for it to be under at all, but hey what can I say, Amazon is weird sometimes). That meant it had the awesome orange bestseller tag on it for most of June 4th and June 5th. Of course, I took a screen shot:


And you may not find that particularly impressive, but check out the company that Blade's Edge was keeping that day:


I almost pooped myself when I saw Blade's Edge ahead of both A Wrinkle in Time AND Harry Potter...

Its highest overall ranking was #312 in the entire store, which is, of course, the highest it has ever been.

But it also kicked butt on other retailer sites! Blade's Edge was #29 in the entire iBooks store! And it was #1 in Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Seriously, no other sub category. Just Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Number 1. Boom. Don't believe me? Check the screen shot.



And on Barnes&Noble it was #5 in Sci-Fi &Fantasy



(Yep, that's Blade's Edge outranking The Handmaid's Tale... Appropriate company, too.)

Those were some of the most exciting moments in Blade's Edge's life to date, and I feel like an obnoxious parent showing off pictures of my child doing something only I find impressive, but there you have it. June 4th was an amazing day, and the past week has been excellent as well.

So far, the effects of the BookBub have been even better than I expected, and I am very curious to see their long term ramifications. The BookBub has more than paid for itself, and the number of people who have paid for a copy of Blade's Edge has increased manyfold. 

If you want more details with exact numbers, I really do recommend the KBoards stats post I made. For now, I am off to get back to writing Victoria Marmot, which I have sorely neglected for a few weeks out of excitement and nerves for Blade's Edge's performance in this promotion. Meanwhile, the time tested truth for authors remains, nothing sells a book like writing more books. So, off I go! To write three more books to release this year. 



Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Magic of Cross-Promotion

Dear readers,

The following blog post is entirely about the back end of publishing and marketing. If that's not your bag, take a pass on this one. If you do publish or you're considering publishing in the future, then you might find this interesting.

Still here? Ok. You've been warned. Let's do this!

Since the release of Traitor's Hope in October I have averaged (between page reads in Kindle Unlimited and actual unit sales) just over one sale per day across both books (Blade's Edge & Traitor's Hope). This is, if you are keeping tabs on this kind of thing, NOT how you get rich. However, that is such a massive improvement to how sales were prior to publishing Traitor's Hope, that I have been extremely happy with it.

Yet, as I saw my page reads and sales both start to dwindle around February, and I began to hear more and more of my fellow authors complain that Amazon was culling their page reads, or stripping their rank, or doing some other confounding thing that made the rest of us all cringe, I decided it was time to take my books out of the Amazon-only scheme and publish them through as many retailers as would have me.

'Tis a risky business.

Why, you ask? Well, only because even when one is spread out through the entire ocean, Amazon is still the biggest fish out there. Most authors are unlikely to sell more through any single other retailer, and some not even with all other retailers combined. And Amazon has quite intentionally set things up to give preferential treatment to the books that are listed exclusively with them.

I was not surprised therefore when, the moment that I took my books out of the program that readers know as Kindle Unlimited and publishers know as Kindle Select, my sales plummeted. Not just my pages read (which only makes sense because the book is no longer in the program that provides pages read) but my normal sales as well. I don't think this is necessarily anything underhanded on Amazon's part. They simply give added visibility to the titles that are in KU and once you take a title out that visibility drops away, so unless you are generating your own visibility (which I wasn't really) ranking slips, and consequently organic sales slip. Fair enough. I was sad to see the drop happen but, as I mentioned earlier, not entirely surprised.

Now, if you read my last blog post, in which I squee like a small child who just got a pony as a present, you'll know that Blade's Edge was recently accepted for a BookBub Featured Deal. (If you have no idea what that is, but would like some context for the rest of this post, go ahead and click on that link and read the aforementioned post.) Having Blade's Edge selected for a BookBub alleviated many of my fears about going wide. Indeed, it made the sudden drop in sales seem almost inconsequential (despite the fact that I'd gone from one sale per day to one sale in two weeks).

Yet, everything I'd read told me that BookBubs are most effective when you support them with additional promotions. The theory (posited by far more experienced authors than I) is that Amazon's ranking algorithms respond best to a steady rise in sales (instead of a sudden spike) and that the higher your rank is before said spike, the higher the spike will take it. So, in preparation for my BookBub Featured Deal (henceforth to be known as BookBub, or even just BB) I have been trying to line up whatever additional promos I can find for Blade's Edge's.

I have therefore agreed to over twenty different cross-promotions with fellow indie authors for the weeks leading up to and away from the BookBub (which is on June 4th). The idea of promotions after the BookBub is that they help to keep up the BookBub's momentum, which will again please the algorithms (we hope) of the mighty Zon.

And the cross-promotion has been going quite well.

Indeed, through the power of newsletter swaps* and group promotions** alone, in the nine days since the cross-promotions have started, I've sold twenty-nine copies of Blade's Edge without spending a single dime on advertising. So, for that short period of time we're talking an average of three units per day, which sure beats the zero units per day I was averaging for the rest of May. Again, none of this is making bank (indeed, since the book is currently discounted to 0.99 in all regions I'm barely making any money at all) but it's a nice gentle slope out of the complete flat line in sales and ranking that had been achieved after going wide, and as it hasn't cost me anything more than time and agreeing to promote other indie authors' works with my readers, I am VERY pleased with the results.

(Some terminology help here: *Newsletter swaps are, as the name suggests, when you send an email to your own mailing list promoting another author's work and in return they send an e-mail to their own list promoting your work. **Group Promotions are, as the name suggests, when a group of authors set a specific time frame to discount their books and then during that time period all promote the discounted books (usually contained on a single sales page on someone's website) to all of their various social media and newsletters.)

So, if you are reading this, and you are an author yourself (indie or not), you are probably wondering where you can find all of these delightful free resources that will help you sell your books.

The answer lies with you. This is all about collaboration. Make author friends (I recommend sites like KBoards or some of the Goodreads author support groups) and then cross promote with them. You can find cross-promotion groups on Facebook too. But always remember that cross-promotion is a two way street. You must be prepared to share other authors' work with your own readers. If you don't have your own readers yet, there are many folks who are willing to help out if you ask (we all started from zero readers and worked our way up, after all), but don't expect people to help you out for nothing. Also, if you don't have a mailing list of your own, then group promotions like Patty Jansen's and other group promos are a great idea (see more examples below), as long as you have some social media accounts you can use to promote with.

I am curious to see how much momentum I can build with newsletter swaps and group promos alone before the BookBub. After the BookBub there will be more NL swaps, but I also managed to snag an ENT spot (that's another e-mail promotion like BookBub only much smaller) for June 7th to help with the tail. I will start a whole thread on KBoards to talk about the stats from before, during, and after the promo, and I may do a recap blog post here. But at any rate, you now know 110% of what I know about cross promotion. Go forth, and sell books!

Below are some examples of group promos I've used for Blade's Edge recently (warning--some of the promos are expired so the books may be over 0.99 now):






Wednesday, May 9, 2018

ACK I GOT A BOOKBUB FEATURED DEAL!!!

HOLY POOP! HOLY POOP! HOLY POOP!

Ok folks. This is major. If you work in publishing you probably already understand why I'm so excited. If not, you are probably wondering why I'm all caps screaming at you across the internet. Assuming that most of my readers don't know why this is a big deal, I will explain.

BookBub is something you may or may not have heard of before as a reader. If you read ebooks, you really should subscribe to BookBub (it's free for readers) as they will send you a curated list of fantastic ebook deals (between free and 2.99, generally) for books that meet their rather rigorous quality standards and also happen to be heavily discounted for a limited period of time. They send those e-mails daily, and they don't repeat the same book in a six month span. Also, each e-mail only contains between 5 and 10 books. Not overwhelming at all, and generally full of good, cheap reads. Plus you can choose which genres you want to hear about and skip all the genres you're not interested in. I am subscribed to BookBub to make my reading habit more affordable. I buy (or download for free) a few books a week from their emails. As an avid reader it's a pleasurable experience, and I'm not alone in enjoying it. Millions (yes, literally, with no exaggeration at all) of readers are signed up for their mailing list.

Ok. So, that's my plug for BookBub, and no, I'm not affiliated with them. They don't pay me anything. Instead they just took a large sum of money from me.

Why?

So that I can get Blade's Edge in front of the 1.9 million readers that are subscribed to the "fantasy" category for BookBub's mailing list.

But this isn't just a pay to play thing. It's a submit and get rejected a bajillion times and then maybe eventually get accepted thing (like much of the publishing industry). And I kind of never really thought I would get a BookBub, because it is, as I mentioned earlier, heavily curated. As in a bunch of traditionally published books get rejected by BookBub, along with the majority of indies who apply. But they DO pick indies occasionally, and they TOTALLY PICKED BLADE'S EDGE AND HOLY CRAP I AM FREAKING OUT!

Ahem.

I mean...

No big deal.

Except it's totally a big deal.

Ok. Deep breath. It isn't a guarantee of anything. The average number of sales for a 0.99 fantasy featured deal are around 1,900. It could be way more than that, it could be way less. That's the thing about averages. But if it's around that number, it will be a huge boosts to Blade's Edge overall sales numbers, its ranking during that week, and hopefully provide a boost to sell through for Traitor's Hope as well.

A number of authors I'm acquainted with online have found BookBubs to be hugely helpful in pushing their writing careers forward. A small handful have found them to be a breakeven endeavor. There is no way to know which mine will be, but I am extremely hopeful and currently looking into all the ways to maximize my experience.

In the meantime, I still feel like I'm dreaming because getting a BookBub is kind of a big deal for a book. It's a stamp of approval that comes from outside of me. It is, believe it or not, more exciting to me than Blade's Edge being a finalist for the Wishing Shelf Book Awards.

Ok. I feel like I'm rambling now, but I was too excited not share this news with folks. The deal will go out on June 4th. I will let folks know about it again around then. And also, both Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope are now available from every major ebook retailer. For Blade's Edge: click here, and for Traitor's Hope: click here.

Those links will let you choose your favorite retailer and direct you accordingly. :-)

I'm going to stop babbling now and go bask in the warmth of this small accomplishment.

PS. I think it's worth mentioning that while anyone who manages to get a BookBub should feel proud of their book, that does not mean that the reverse is true. There are many mysterious factors in why they choose certain books and not others, and Blade's Edge was rejected 4 times (while it was only available through Amazon) and then accepted on the 5th try (as soon as it was available through multiple retailers). In short, getting rejected by BookBub is not a reason to feel bad about your book. BookBub is merely one tool in the box, and their reasons for rejecting your book could be as simple as, "not available on enough channels," or "not what we need to go with these five other books," or what have you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Inside Scoop

Well, folks, I am happy to announce that Victoria Marmot: Average Teenager (Dark Matters: Book One) is officially off to my editor for a first pass! Yay! In addition, I am now 1/10th of the way through the rewrite of Book Two, so all is on target for an October release of books 1-3 as things stand currently (fingers crossed--there's plenty that could go wrong between now and then).

Meanwhile, after much hemming and hawing, I have finally decided to hire someone else to design the covers for the Victoria Marmot series, even though I am a professional cover designer myself. The reason? Well, I gave it a shot (quite a few shots, actually) and I am just too close to the story to be able to do the design justice. My brain keeps getting sidetracked by infinite tiny details, or inside jokes that are funny only to me and really don't need to be on the cover, or what have you, and even if I do manage to design something appropriate in the end it will have taken 10 times the length of time that it should have. Assuming that I am turning down other work in order to get my own design done, or even just taking longer to write the books, it's far more economical to hire someone else to do it. So, that's what I've done. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing what someone else comes up with for these books.

In addition, we now have the fun anticipation here on the blog of waiting for cover art, which is always a favorite pastime of mine.

Getting three books (even short ones) ready for publication inside of a year, is time consuming, and I need to get back to it, so this blog post will be rather short, as will the next few in all likelihood. Coming up soon, however, are some in-person appearances at the end of May. In addition, Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope are both going be available on all major ebook retailers in short order, so if you don't have a kindle, but have been waiting to buy them digitally, you will be in luck in the next couple of weeks.

I will post here again with more details on both of those things, and will include links to everything!

I hope this finds you all well. The snow here is finally melting and I wore sandals the other day, so I'm officially calling it spring. Yay!

Coming soon...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March 11, 2011

I get asked about this time quite often once people find out I was living in Japan in 2011, and my old blog is defunct now, so here, for posterity, is my account of March 11th and the days following it. For those unfamiliar with the context, seven years ago I was living in Tsuruoka, Yamagata, a mere 100km away from the epicenter of the earthquake. Quite fortunately, we were on the opposite coast, and thus the tsunami that devastated so much of our dear Tohoku did not touch us. What follows is the account that I wrote in the week following the quake, it remains unedited; I haven't even gone back through it to fix typos. You get exactly what my stress addled brain was able to produce six days after the quake.

頑張る東北頑張る日本

Words from JapanOriginally Posted on March 17, 2011 at 12:24 AM

Well, I won't lie, I'm slightly embarassed that I haven't posted since October. SOOOOO much has happened since then. I finished my most recent novel, I did the first round of edits, I sent it off to my first readers, I got it back from some of them, I'll soon be doing the second round of edits and sending it off to the editor who's interested in reading it. I also have driven to Kyushu and back, learned how to snowboard, signed up for a triathlon in June, started training for said triathlon, I've fallen even more madly in love with my boyfriend (didn't think that was possible), I've started teaching new classes at work and oh, yeah, I'm one of millions of people dealing with the after effects of the worst earthquake and tsunami Japan has ever experienced.

But, I imagine, unfortunately, due to the morbidity and curiosity of human nature, the thing you're all most interested in hearing about is that last bit. Which is fine, really, because that's what I'm here to talk about.

I've been inundated with loving e-mails from family and friends these days, including people I haven't heard from in ages who are checking in for the first time in months or years just to make sure I'm ok. It's nice. But, I've also been getting e-mails from the same concerned and loving people telling me to get the hell out of Japan. While I appreciate and understand where those sentiments come from, it's not at all helpful.

As the best way to allay fears is to provide information I'm restarting this blog to keep people informed and hopefully keep the fear down. Not to say that things aren't scary, but panic is never helpful and we'd like to keep it at a minimum.

Because it's a story that many people haven't heard, I'll start at the beginning.

Friday March 11th: On Fridays I teach kids for 3 hours straight and then head off to teach adults immediately afterwards so they're usually rather hectic. I was racing to finish planning for my adult and kids classes and print off worksheets before I left for class (because of course I put it off til the last second) and then hurrying out the door. As I bent down to pick up my bag, my phone went off and I picked it up to see what it was. Earthquake early warning. Shit. Right. Ok.

We'd had a 7.2 earthquake a few days before hand a few prefectures away and had gotten a solid sway from that, so earthquakes were on the brain, and I had recently reviewed the list of safety procedures just in case. So, keeping my cool I put down my bags and moved to the bathroom to turn off the gas for our hot water heater. Even as I put down my bag the apartment began to sway. I then moved to the kitchen and turned off the gas there. Then I headed to the sliding door and opened it wide. (If you don't know, we turn the gas off to help reduce the possibility of fires in a big quake and open doors in order to prevent being trapped should the quake twist the frames.)

With that done I noted that the apartment was not only still swaying but was swaying more vigorously. Not knowing how big this would get I decided to sit under my desk. I hate to admit it but part of me was thinking "crap this is going to make me late for class" I must be turning Japanese.

The swaying continued for minutes. The reports from Miyagi said that it lasted over 5 minutes (that's at the location closest to the epicenter) it seemed to go that long here as well. But to be perfectly frank, it wasn't that scary. The building swayed, we're on the 3rd floor of a very well made 4 story apartment building, so it swayed and clacked feeling like something between a boat on a rolling ocean and a train that's rocking on it's rails and that's about it. It was a lot of motion, but in our apartment nothing even fell over. As the swaying began to slow considerably I got up to poke my head out the door and see what the rest of the neighborhood was up to. Some old men who were clearing snow down on the street were looking suspiciously at the power lines in front of them and one of them was gesturing to the other. Though I couldn't hear him, he was clearly saying something along the lines of "Didja feel that one, Harry? That was a biggee eh?" The other man nodded, still staring at the power lines. I followed his gaze and noticed that they'd started swaying again. Our first aftershock. I waited out the aftershock inside. (Again, for those who don't know, while there is actual shaking going on, you're not supposed to run out of a building -unless it's already coming down- because you're more likely to get killed by a falling piece of facade than anything that might hit you inside.) Once that was over I was late for work but headed off anyway (after clearing the foot of fresh fallen snow off of my car). This is Japan after all and unless there's damage from an earthquake people expect you to keep on keeping on. No damage at our place, ergo I figured I was expected at work.

I was right. One of my students and his mom (these are my 6 year olds) arrived at the same time that I did. We exchanged our views of the quake and I learned a new word through context. Yureru: to shake. I went in and the staff at the place I work asked me if I was ok and if *immediate confirmation of my new vocab* things shook a lot at my place. I replied that they had indeed, as I am on the 3rd floor, but that there was no damage. They nodded. I picked up my materials and went into my classroom. All my students (remember they're six year olds) were hiding under the desks. When I came in they all shouted in unison "Sensei, Sensei! Jishindayo!" (Teacher, Teacher, There's an earthquake.) Yeah, I noticed.

So then I kept three 6 year olds entertained with English games while occasionally letting them dive under the desks when an aftershock hit. And plenty of aftershocks hit. I pretty much felt like we didn't stop swaying from 2:46pm when the quake hit until... well I still feel like I'm swaying now. But now it's mostly in my head. Up until Sunday afternoon or so, it really wasn't. The way to check this is to look at something that's hanging but is hefty enough not to be moved by a breeze. There's a large hanging calendar in the classroom I was teaching in, I kept on eye on it. About 9 times out of 10 it wasn't in my imagination and I checked that calendar about 50 times while I was in that room.

After my first kids class I walked out to the lobby where they had the news running on the big screen. I started to make some coppies for my next class and as I did so a bunch of the staff started exclaiming loudly in front of the TV. I rushed over to see what was going on and was horrified to see live coverage of one the Tsunami wiping out a town on the coast. None of us could talk, we just stood there covering our mouths and staring at the devastation as a wall of water picked up cars, houses, boats and everything else in its path and dragged them along. There aren't words... I'm sure you've all seen the footage at this point. But... imagine, if you can, that you're not seeing footage of a place that's thousands of miles away from you filled with people you've never met. Imagine instead that you're watching it, as it's happening, and looking at a place that you've been to before, a place that is almost identical to the place you live and a place that is filled with people who you might know, might have seen, might have talked to and who regardless of any of that are people just like you and only a hundred miles away.

We stood and watched helplessly as a part of our world was destroyed, and then I realized I was late for class, again. I had a hard time believing that parents were still letting their students come to my class, but they were. So I had to go teach. Thankfully I had prepared worksheets as I was in no condition to actually teach. I am quite convinced that my class on Friday was one of the worst classes I've ever taught. Thankfully, the kids were happy to be distracted with spelling sheets and word searches and didn't mind that I was constantly looking at the calendar on the wall.

For my third class I only had one student. He was 20 minutes late, so that gave me more time to watch the news. More shots of devastation from the tsunami, and as the situation progressed it really started to hit home that lots of people were going to be dead, possibly people I knew. I kept trying to send Corey a text message from my phone to tell him I was ok and ask him how he was but cell phones were down as the networks were overwhelmed. My lone 10 year old and I had an interesting conversation about the disaster and then, because I have a sick sense of humor, we played alphabet Jenga (made all the more interesting by the fact that the aftershocks kept shaking the table) in my defense the kid thought this was hilarious. Then we played 20 questions. He beat me with "ghost".

After that I had to run off to my adult class (over 7km away and only 20 minutes after my kids classes finish) only to find out that they had canceled. I was relieved. I didn't think I could handle pretending things were ok in front of adults for an hour and a half.

I headed home and found Corey and Johnny waiting for me watching the news. We exchanged hugs and tales of where we were when the quake hit, then we settled down to watch the records of the devastation. We talked about our friends in Miyagi and pondered whether or not they were ok. We had no idea, and we had no way of finding out until the internet and phones came back online. Eventually, we headed off to find Mide (our other good friend who lives close by) as we couldn't get in touch via phone. We walked to her place but she was out, so we left a note at her place and headed to our local pizza place for dinner. My buddy who runs the restaurant was fine and it was good to confirm that people were ok, he didn't have friends or family in Miyagi. Daijobu. (Japanese for "fine.") Mide showed finally managed to get a call through to Johnny and we told her to meet us at the restaurant. She'd been out driving around looking for us since her calls hadn't been going through. More hugs, more story telling and we made dark jokes and tried to laugh it off.

Then we headed to the supermarket to stock up on snacks and breakfast foods. From there we went to Mide's to try her phone line to see if we could succeed in calling home to let people know that we were ok. No dice. After a few more attempts we gave up and went our separate ways to try to find some sleep.

Just before I went to bed it occurred to me that I might be able to get an internet connection on my kindle. I had noticed that people with iPhones seemed to be getting through to people, and I knew that my kindle had the same connection that an iPhone does so I thought it might work. It did. I was able to post on facebook and send a quick e-mail to my family letting them know we were ok. Heart attacks, averted. For the time being anyway.

Saturday March 12th: We were awoken at 4am by a large aftershock. For most of us this was a rude awakening from dreams already laden with earthquakes. We then returned to an uneasy sleep constantly concerned that we'd have to get up for a full sized quake and make tracks. Thankfully, it never happened. We got up at 8am on Saturday to try to get online and get in touch with folks back home. Of course we also turned on the news. The power plants in Fukushima had been on the news the day before also, but we were so concerned with the quake and the tsunami and the thought of losing our friends and a city we loved that we didn't think too much of it.

On Saturday our perspective on that changed. The tragedy was still in the devastation faced by the residents all over the east coast of Tohoku, but the nuclear plant was becoming a growing concern.

Corey is the Block Leader for the JET program in Shonai. That means it's his responsibility to talk to people when they have problems and be a contact person for trouble at schools and in life in general. On Saturday it meant that he had to keep people calm. It was a big job and I did my best to help as I could. Foreigners who were unable to understand the Japanese news were only getting info from friends and family back home who were reading western news, or they were reading the western news themselves and were panicking unnecessarily. We did our best to keep that down. We invited people over, we drank, we played boggle, we made jokes, we talked about what super powers we wanted to have. It was a good time.

Sunday March 13th: We woke up to another 4am aftershock only this time our phones went off, but there was no noticable shaking. Then at 8am there was a shake that woke us up, but as it wasn't that big we just stayed in bed and went back to sleep. Around 10am we got up and made a big old western breakfast with potatoes and eggs. We fed our guests and tried to relax a bit. Then we got to business.

Sunday was stock up on food and gas day. We had heard that there would be shortages over the next week because supply chains would be slow to reestablish (most of our shipping used to come through Sendai, now that's not an option so a lot of rerouting needs to be done). So we went off to get in line for gas and then we hit up a supermarket outside of town that still had supplies. We only had to wait about 30 minutes for gas. (Considering that line ups lately have been over 2 hours long this was a nice break.) They were rationing so we only got 10 liters each (except Corey, he has a diesel van so he was allowed to fill up). But I had over half a tank anyway so 10 liters got me close to full. At the store we bought some more bread and some milk and eggs, some seaweed and some things we were out of and then we headed home.

From there we watched the news and then tried to take our minds off things. We had started stock piling clean drinking water just as a precaution the day before and we did some more of that. We mainly focused on keeping our guests calm and reassuring them.

Then a musician friend of ours showed up and he and Corey prepared for a small gig they had planned that night. A few hours later we went to watch them. Just before that I baked some bread. Life seemed almost normal. It was really nice to go listen to music and have a few drinks with friends for a while.

Some time during the day we heard news of possible rolling power outages scheduled for the coming week, so after the gig everyone decided to go their separate ways in order to do laundry and get prepared to possibly not have power. We had fewer aftershocks on Sunday than previous days so that was reassuring. Sunday night was a solid night of sleep.

Monday March 14th: We had just gotten up and were rejoicing at a our tremorless rest when another aftershock shook the house a bit. This no longer phases us as long as it stops within a minute or so.

On Monday I was getting a lot of worried email from home and we had just spent our weekend keeping others calm, and then Corey sent me a message from school asking me if I could prepare our evacuation bags just in case. Apparently this was where my stress level burst and I told the world to fuck off and I went to the gym. It was nice. I swam and ran and it was great stress relief. Yay, training! Then Johnny and I had bentos and made bad disaster jokes, then we headed back to the apartment and watched a silly TV show that made us laugh and relax a bit. Corey came home bearing alcohol and we made a party of it. My Monday class was canceled so I didn't have to go in to work. Good times.

We spent the evening hanging out and playing guitar and making each other laugh. It was relaxing and almost normal. Those of us still new to our instruments (ie. Johnny and I) were even calm enough to get frustrated with ourselves for not learning our part as fast as we wanted to. It was a good night.

Tuesday March 15th: Tuesday marked the arrival of our friend Jeremy who is a frenchman living in Sendai. He was fortunate enough to be in downtown Sendai at the time of the quake and he was fine. Likewise his house was not damaged. However, conditions are such in Sendai that he thought it would be best to leave. Waiting in line for two hours or more for food and water is only fun for so long. So we have taken him in.

Tuesday was also the day of taping up the windows and scrubbing out the tub so that we could fill it with water. As the threat from the Fukushima plant increased we had to keep all of our options open, including the eventuality of being stuck inside for a long time. Ergo we needed lots of water and wanted to keep out as much outside air as possible. This was all just precautionary, and even now people in our area are not being instructed to do this officially, but we've decided it's a reasonable precaution.

I still had to teach so I went off to hang with my adults and we mostly talked about the disaster for both classes. Still, my students were lively and seemed generally chipper though many of them are worried and pretty much everyone knows someone who is now homeless in Sendai or has been affected directly by the disaster. There was a lot of story swapping.

Tuesday night we celebrated Jeremy's arrival and safety by a drinking a bottle of champagne that he had given us back in January but which we had not yet consumed. We then celebrated further by watchin Zoolander. A completely ridiculous movie that was excellent for keeping our minds off things. All the while Jeremy had to keep running off to his computer because he is apparently France's primary correspondent on the ground here in Japan. Hilarious. Some of us have even been "interviewed" on French TV regardless of whether or not we speak French. Too funny.

Wednesday March 16th: Wednesday was a day of more preparations. We finished taping the windows and we had a meeting with some other local foreigners who are trying to organize relief efforts for Miyagi and other affected areas. Then I had to go teach in Sakata (a 40 minute drive to the north). I have 5 students in a business class there and they weren't so keen on talking about the disaster. Everyone is pretty worried about the Fukushima plants so after talking about it for a bit and making sure everyone was ok and so were their families and friends, I went for a change of subject. Prepared for the eventuality I had brought boggle. I had only meant to use it to start class, but after three rounds one of them asked me "can we do this for the rest of class?" I said, "sure." They had a blast.

Then I came home and made pizza with Jeremy as sou-chef while Corey went to collect some of our friends from Tendo who are flying out of our local airport on Friday. They had some road troubles on the way home (highway closed due to avalanche warning) so they took some extra time getting back, but all was well. Last night we sat around and played multilingual boggle, including rounds in French and Japanese. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of made up vocabulary. "What do you mean daol isn't a word in French? It sounded like one in my head!"

Thursday March 17th: Brings us to today. I have actually spent most of today writing this post so I will leave you here now. Things are ok today, we're keeping a close eye on the news and getting ready to accept more evacuees from Miyagi.

So there you go! I'm off to hit the gym and then go to work. Things here are fine for the moment. I will keep you posted as things progress. But that's the story up til now. I hope you are all doing well.


PS. If you are interested in helping out here in Japan please donate to the Japanese branch of the redcross!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What About Chronicles of Gensokai: Book 3?

So, I may have mentioned recently that I'm working away on the Victoria Marmot series. Indeed, I have just recently reached the tentative conclusion of the rough draft of books 1 - 3, and am about to dive head first into the rewrite (which will include adding a few chapters that are currently missing from draft one, as well as rearranging what's left after I cut away a few giant chunks). I'm thrilled with this progress, and really looking forward to the rewrite. At this rate I'm hopeful that I will make my initial goal of releasing all three books in October of 2018.

But you may be wondering why I'm not busy writing Book 3 from the Chronicles of Gensokai series instead.

First of all, if you are wondering that, THANK YOU! I'm really glad that you enjoyed Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope enough that you care about Book 3! The fact that I've had a few readers ask about a 3rd book makes me very happy indeed.

To answer the question though, I must address a few things. First of all, I had never intended for Blade's Edge to become a series (oops). When I wrote the first draft (and even the second and third drafts) of the book, I thought it was a standalone novel. Sure, there were a few loose threads at the end, but I felt that the ending was satisfying enough to be conclusive and was ready to move on to a new story. Until, as I was wrapping up final edits and getting ready to publish Blade's Edge, I realized there was more of the story to tell. A seed began to germinate, and as more early readers of Blade's Edge asked for a sequel that seed was nourished and started to grow.

Which is how I wound up with Traitor's Hope, which I thought might be the final book. A duology. Not a series. Unless of course...

Yes, by the time I published Traitor's Hope, the same thing had happened and indeed there is a seed of a story for Book 3 in my head. One that I think will be well worth its own book (possibly more than one, we'll see how it goes). And yet, the seed I have is still small enough, and quiet enough, that it doesn't have momentum in my head. It pokes at me every now and again to remind that it is there, and to ask me certain questions, but it hasn't yet reared up and said YOU MUST WRITE ME NOW!!

To be fair, it probably will once I sit down and take a good look at what I've got for a story so far, and ask a few key questions of my characters, but I've been reluctant to return to Gensokai just yet because... well, it's a bit of a dark place, it's in need of a lot of work, and my small cast of characters seem hell bent on doing it all themselves, so... that's a lot of responsibility. So, I'm taking a metaphorical deep breath and relaxing a bit with a story that is a little more humorous and fly by the seat of your pants (although it still addresses some dark topics, I seem unable to avoid them).

So I'm knocking out the first three Victoria Marmot books this year, and when I've done that, I will either dive right into books 4-6 or I will go back to Gensokai, depending on where my head is. Chances are good though, that I will knock out more of the Victoria Marmot books so that, that series can gain momentum, something I've already messed up for the Chronicles of Gensokai, so I may as well get this next series right in terms of timing, and then go back to Mishi & Taka et al when I'm done.

But we shall see. Also, at this rate, I may have all the Victoria Marmot books done by the end of 2019 so we may not be looking at too long a hiatus on the Gensokai books anyway. After all, it took me almost 3 years to get from Blade's Edge to Traitor's Hope, so if book 3 comes out in late 2020 that would be par for the course.

 TL:DR you have time to catch up on Blade's Edge and Traitor's Hope before book 3 comes out, in case you haven't read them yet.






Friday, February 16, 2018

Congress, You're Fired

Every politician in the US has failed us, again.

Neil Gaiman retweeted this Op-Ed and said, with depressing accuracy, "It makes it look as if this is the best government the gun lobby could buy."

A number of people on Twitter have taken to quoting congresspeople who tweeted their "thoughts and prayers" for this latest tragedy with the $ amount of donations that particular congressperson has received from the NRA listed atop their "condolences." Many were in the multiple hundreds of thousands, some were in the millions.

The current white house and current congress are full of people who don't give a shit that over a dozen families took their children to school on Wednesday and then never saw them again. They don't care that people whose job it was to improve the lives of young people were shot because they went to work on a normal weekday.

The horror of these events shouldn't just wash over us. It shouldn't. That it can and does is so messed up that it's difficult to conceive.

But it's hard to dwell on these things for too long when this was the 18th such event since January 1st. If one is confronted with that much horror every two to three days, how can one possibly let the true depravity sink in. To do so would be profoundly unhealthy. And yet...

The correct response is not to simply "move on." It is not to say, "what can we do?" Or to call it an "unpreventable tragedy."

This headline today made me want to vomit:


Raises questions about whether Florida school massacre was preventable??

OF COURSE IT WAS FUCKING PREVENTABLE! I DON'T CARE WHAT THE FBI KNEW OR DIDN'T KNOW.

-------->>>>>>  STOP SELLING PEOPLE AR-15s!  <<<<<<----------

JUST STOP.

No one needs an AR-15 outside of a combat situation. Even gun loving, former military, hunting aficionados admit this. 
*There was another one from a former SEAL that I can't find again, but you get the gist.* 


Stop selling AR-15s to anyone but the military. 

This tragedy, like every other school shooting with an assault weapon, was entirely preventable.

And don't tell me that making AR-15s illegal isn't going to stop criminals from using them. That argument is just dumb. By that same reasoning we shouldn't outlaw murder, theft, or anything at all, because criminals will just ignore the law. Yes, criminals may ignore the law, but if it makes things more difficult for people who want to commit a mass shooting how can it be a bad thing? Meanwhile, every other country that has banned assault weapons has seen an end to mass shootings. 

And don't tell me that not ALL mass shootings are committed with AR-15s and therefore we shouldn't ban them. Enough of them are committed with AR-15s that banning AR-15s would clearly make a difference. People choose this weapon because it can kill a large number of people quickly. And if you want to insist that other weapons can too.... you know what? Ban them too. Seriously. I'm tired of it. You really don't need anything that spends rounds that quickly in your home. 

Next up, don't tell me not to politicize a tragedy. The survivors of this latest massacre are already begging the government to implement gun control. 


The families of the fallen are asking for it too. Stop pretending that there is some acceptable mourning period that must be observed before we can start asking congress to do ITS ONLY JOB and make sensible laws to protect US citizens from senseless violence. Just stop.

And stop pretending that you care about other humans, or basic human decency, if you think there's *nothing* that could have been done. 

Call your representatives ASAP and tell them that it's time for reasonable gun control. Tell them it's time for them to do their jobs. Remind them that elections are coming up and you are prepared to vote against them in order to find someone who is actually willing to do the job they were elected for. Tell them that #enoughisenough.