Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sam and his Sanshin

The quintessential Japanese musical instrument is a three-stringed sanshin. Since a sanshin has long strings and no frets, any note can be played and any kind of mood can be invoked. Upbeat, dance-able songs? OK! Quiet, moody ballads? Equally OK!

When the hero of my second Okinawa novel wants to announce his new business, he picks up a sanshin and plays a song that goes like this:

"Meet me at the west gate.
Be sure to ride up in style.
I'll let you into the castle,
where we'll live the life of kings,
but only for today.
Then you have to go,
and we will be what we have always been:
I in my court kimono,
and you in your workman's garb."

Sam has been to the metropolis, and he knows it isn't for him. He is what he is, a man in workman's garb.

Work? When it's the right job, it's as exalting as robes and a crown.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mixed Motives

Characters in fiction always want something. Sometimes they want it with all their heart, and at the same time, it is the last thing they want. That happened to Sam Ryder one steamy afternoon:

Sam parked his bike against the back wall of the office, where there was a little shade. He pulled a crumpled towel out of his pocket and mopped his face and neck, reaching under his tee shirt to wipe his belly and chest and the small of his back while he was at it. Damn, he thought. He should just shed the tee shirt and wring it out. Only a few blocks away the sea breeze was like the poster child for island living, but here in the heart of Naha, it was the sauna from hell.

Sam pushed the door open and slouched into the office, beads of sweat pooling on each spike of hair until they were heavy enough to plop onto the floor. His eyes fixed on Yayoi. Dressed in white and pale blue, she was the picture of cool.

“You need this,” she said, getting up to bring a glass and an icy pitcher of jasmine tea to his desk.

“I need a shower.”

“Step out back and I’ll get the hose,” she laughed. Their office had no such amenity as a shower.

Sam was sorely tempted. Damn. How did she stay so crisp looking? Her white lace blouse looked as if she’d taken it freshly ironed and slipped it over her shoulders mere moments ago. There was not a hair on her head out of place. And her face, while slightly pink, looked smooth and dry. Was she immune to the Naha humidity? Damn. She was too perfect. He pictured her turning the hose on him, and him grabbing it and spraying her instead, the two of them laughing as they cavorted like kids. Tempting. Yes.

If she did hose him down, he’d need to go home and pick up some dry clothes. He pictured himself with Yayoi, both of them on his bike, racing up the hills, chasing the breeze. He imagined them pulling up to his place…

His place? The top floor room over Sawami’s father’s bar? The oven-like space with the wilted futon on the floor, last week’s jeans and tee shirts in smelly clumps dumped onto the moldy tatami? That place?

“Tea!” He turned his best puppy dog grin on Yayoi. “Exactly what I was dreaming of.”

Monday, June 28, 2010

Everybody Loves a Water Buffalo (2)

Who is Sam Ryder, and why does he want a water buffalo?

Sam is the hero in my second Okinawa novel, a guy who grew up over a six-stool bar in Naha, went to Shinjuku (in Tokyo), got a job delivering beer to the bars in Kabukicho and then lost the job and bounced back to Naha, where his mantra became, "Everyone needs a job, and today's hero is the guy who provides the jobs."

So what is he going to do with that water buffalo?

If life gives you buffalo milk, make mozzarella!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Everybody Loves a Water Buffalo

In Okinawa, the water buffalo is the image character for some of the smaller islands in the Ryukyu chain. Carts pulled by patient water buffalo and managed by sanshin-playing tour conductors are the main attraction on picturesque Taketomi and Yubu islands.

To my surprise, water buffalo are almost invisible on the main island of Okinawa itself. Once upon a time, they were the muscle behind the rice paddies and the sugar mills, but times have changed and they have been replaced by machines.

In a recent visit to Okinawa, I made inquiries about where to see water buffalo. Guess what? I was told the best place to find out details about raising water buffalo is from the Tama Zoological Garden, located in Tokyo.

I can see the trees of the Tama Zoo from my house.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A New Character, A New Story

Katsuren has been written, published, and offered for sale. I've gotten heart warming comments from readers in the US, Japan and Europe. Now it's time to move on to the next story.

Every story starts with a problem. This story starts with two problems: my character (Sam Ryder) needs a job; Okinawa needs new sources of employment, now that military bases are out of favor. What options does an orphan and high school dropout who grew up in the back room over a six-stool bar have?

More than you might think!

Sam is a guy with a future, though in the scene he's in now, he's about to get beaten up by a bunch of punks who want the leather jacket off his back, the one he bought in Shinjuku with his final paycheck after getting fired from his job delivering beer.

C'mon, Sam... Fight for your future!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fear and Trepidation

Katsuren is in its second edition. I am one of those writers who finds it hard to put down the pen, close the book, and declare a manuscript done. There is always something that could be better, and a lot of the readers of the first edition were very generous with feedback about exactly what they thought could be made better. The second edition incorporates my own second thoughts as well as reader feedback.

It's the same story. Same characters, same location, same events, and same ending...


...the book design is better, the editing is better, and it has a brilliant new cover.

I am waiting for the author's proof copy with fear and trepidation. It's like in the old days, when we were born, and our parents didn't even know if we would be boys or girls until the moment of our birth, never mind what our faces would look like or if we would have the right number of fingers and toes.

I hope the second edition of Katsuren is exactly how I dreamed it would be.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oh! Oh! Disaster at Katsuren

This world heritage site is the setting for my novel, Katsuren. On February 27, an earthquake of Magnitude 5 on the Japanese scale rattled Okinawa and sent many remnants of ancient fortifications tumbling down, including this section of wall at Katsuren Castle.

(photo copied from The Okinawa Times, Feb 27 online edition)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Year, New Look

Katsuren is getting a flashier cover and a new internal layout.

A lot of people liked having bunches of white space to break up the pages--and to write notes in, since many readers bought this book as a way to brush up their English. But other readers said they preferred a more traditional look to the pages. Thus, there will be two versions.

Look for the new format and the new cover in March.