017. a huge thank you!

I wanted to use this blog post to thank all the new readers I’ve had this past week, mostly thanks to the Hidden Gems ARC program. As an indie author, reaching new readers is one of the hardest things to do, and each time someone reads my work and leaves their thoughts, I am filled with an incredible gratitude. So I wanted to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has done this recently – it means the world to me!

Each time I see new feedback, I open up The Life Siphon book 2 and get a few more pages revised in draft two. It’s incredible for my motivation. For any readers who commented that they couldn’t wait until the second book, I do have ARC slots available for those interested, and all you have to do is send me an email with your name and information to get on the list. You’ll get the book before anyone else will!

So thank you, thank you, to each and every person who has read my work this week – whether it be The Life Siphon or an ARC of Ibuki – and please know that I appreciate SO MUCH the fact that you took a chance on an unknown book. The world of self- and indie-publishing has created so much opportunity for writers, but it also makes it that much harder to get noticed in the amount of books available each day. Time is precious and limited, so thank you very much to those who have decided to use their time curled up with my work. 本当にありがとうございました!

016. winter chill

I’m no stranger to winter – I grew up in midwestern America, where the temperature could drop down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite this, the mild winter in Japan is much worse! It’s a combination of factors: lack of insulation, lack of central heat, and being outside walking in the cold much more often. As a result of the poorly warmed apartments, I develop chilblains every winter on my fingers and toes.

Chilblains are low-level frostbite resulting in exposure to cold (but not freezing) temperatures; basically, it’s an abnormal reaction to the cold. I never had them in America, but every year like clockwork I get them in Japan. My fingers swell and blister, and my toes swell and itch, and sometimes, like now, it’s so bad I can’t fit my feet into half my work shoes. It’s also extraordinarily uncomfortable to try walking and working with hard, swollen, painful red patches over your extremities.

Insulation doesn’t exist in walls in Tokyo. And without central heat, you are forced to resort to your wall A/C unit for all heating and cooling needs – and if you only have one in your living room, your bedroom is freezing. These units are turned off during the day when you’re gone (or else your bill will be around $500) and when you return home in the evening, often times your apartment is colder than the winter outside! This kind of living is what triggers my chilblains, and there’s really no way around it. Both my running and my writing have slowed way down as a result of this discomfort.

I think I must conveniently forget this issue every year once winter is over, because it’s a surprise each time it happens again. My husband has been making a DIY 湯たんぽ (basically a hot water bottle) out of his steel water bottle, and we’re keeping it at our feet in the bed at night. We have a small floor heater for the bedroom, but it fails to regulate temperature like the wall unit does, so two hours of power and the room is a sauna. However, without insulation, you lose all the heat an hour after you turn the heater off! It’s a no-win situation.

This is our last winter in Japan before we leave for good, so at least the end is in sight. I’ll be glad to be back in a place that builds houses to keep the heat (and cool) inside, rather than let it all out! And my poor frostbitten fingers and toes will be glad, too.

015. running and writing

In the past month, I’ve come to the conclusion that running and writing are cut from the same cloth and very similar to each other. Confused? I can see why – after all, these are two hobbies that appear pretty far apart in terms of just about everything. But I swear, there is way more alike about them than first meets the eye.

In the past month, I geared up and hit the pavement to pull myself into consistent 10k running. I also geared up and hit the figurative pavement to write NaNoWriMo. I’m going to lose NaNo fairly spectacularly, as I usually do, but still, between the two I began to notice a lot of similarities.

(1) Motivation for both can be hard to find.

Some days, you really don’t want to run. And other days, you really just don’t want to write! Getting out the door or onto the Gdoc can be the hardest part of either hobby. Sometimes you have to bribe yourself to get going. And then-

(2) Once you get started, reflexes take over.

Sometimes it takes a kilometer and sometimes five; sometimes it takes 100 words and sometimes 500. But eventually, with both running and writing, you hit your stride and it becomes easier. Muscle memory takes over and you remember why you like doing it. Whatever was blocking you fades away and the km and words start to flow.

(3) It’s all small goals leading to the finish line.

Maybe your finish line is a literal one, and maybe a figurative one, but both of the hobbies have an end goal. Whether it’s running a marathon or finishing your novel, there’s something you work for, day by day and bit by bit, to achieve. As you work, you set small goals: 30km this week or 1500 words a day. Sometimes you’ll hit the goal and sometimes you won’t, but there’s always a new day waiting for you to try again.

(4) Doing them with others makes the work easier.

There’s a reason that NaNo is a big community website and event. There’s a reason they organize meet-ups and encourage people to get involved in the forums. And there’s a huge reason that marathon runners find pace-equivalent race prep teams on weekends. Doing work with others ups your own motivation and connects you with people who understand your goals on a fundamental level.

(5) After you finish for the day, you feel great.

No matter if it was a daily run or a daily word count, meeting your goal for the day makes you feel like you can take on the world. It’s a great feeling that can carry over into the rest of your day! And of course –

(6) People outside your hobby usually don’t understand what you are talking about.

Want to dish about the breakthrough you made in your antagonist’s motivations? Or about how you just PRed your best time by 20 seconds? Yeah, often times the people around you don’t have any clue what you are talking about or why you would ever want to talk about it. That’s why it’s helpful to get some friends who share your hobbies.

014. nanowrimo 2017

It’s that time again! Time for frantic writing, scrambled outlines, and general panic as NaNoWriMo arrives (with something of a bang over here, as we are set to have a typhoon hit tonight). In about a week, it will be November, and that means it’s time to write 50,000 words in one month! Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Because I am!

My NaNo project has changed already – at the beginning of October, I thought for sure I knew what I was doing and had my outline all finished and ready to go! Turns out, my motivation for the project disappeared entirely, but never fear! I am resurrecting (in a way) a very old novel idea and transforming it into something new, and that is my new NaNo 2017 novel project.

Now, to start this, I need to finish The Life Siphon book 2 first draft, which I am almost there with. One more chapter plus the epilogue should finish out Tatsu’s story, and I’ve got nine days to get that done – hopefully no problem! Then, after November, I can go back to the draft with fresh eyes and get the first round of revisions made. (I’m looking at a late spring, early summer release date if all goes well.) With that coming out mid-year, and my novella from NSP due out in mid-February, and chapters of my NaNo project going to my editor in December, it’s possible that I’ll have three things in the pipeline in 2018! That’s incredibly exciting (and cool)!

Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? Best of luck reaching 50k to everyone participating! And see you in November – when the pain begins. 🙂

013. autumn glory

Autumn is absolutely my favorite time of the year. I’m at my peak in autumn, with the most energy and motivation (which makes it a great time to finish WIPs and hold NaNoWriMo). I always used to love the turning of colors back in the states, but none of that, at least not in the midwest where I come from, can compare to the glory that is autumn colors – or 紅葉 ‘koyo’ – in Japan. (Japanese like to tell foreigners and newcomers, “Japan has four seasons!” like Japan is the only country on the planet that goes through those seasons on a yearly basis.)

Koyo here doesn’t start until much later than I’m used to – I come from midwest America, where several years growing up saw snow during Halloween trick-or-treating. Japan is a milder climate, so the colors here in Tokyo don’t start turning until mid-November, and usually don’t reach anything resembling peak until the end of the month, which means they stay until the first few weeks in December! This leads up nicely into the winter holidays, so it’s a great change from seeing blizzards before Thanksgiving. If you are really craving those autumn colors as a Tokyoite, you can follow them down the country by traveling to the north and west mountain regions, which see koyo come as early as the beginning of October.

I do a lot of traveling in the fall – most of my ‘exploring Japan’ trips happened during the fall, and when I got married, I insisted that the wedding be in the fall, too. It’s my favorite time of the year! If you ever want to visit Japan, visit in mid-November, as it’s the only truly wonderful time to be here.

Tokyo is a concrete jungle, but it’s also home to some really nice koyo viewing parks. You can start up early by doing some easy day hikes from the metropolitan area and hit the colors in early November, and then by the end of the month, all you have to do is find your favorite local park and settle on in! I tend to take a lot of photographs during these months, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorites so everyone can see the beautiful sights that I’m talking about.

(From the summit of Mt. Takao, Nov. 2012)

(Hiking up Mt. Mitsutoge, Dec. 2013)

(Oirase Stream in Aomori prefecture, Oct. 2014)

(Hiking Mt. Mizugaki in Yamanashi prefecture, Oct. 2015)

012. run for your life

Today I thought I’d talk about a hobby near and dear to my heart: running! I’ll admit right away that I am far from the best runner. In fact, in ten years of running, it’s embarrassing how little I’ve actually accomplished by way of progress and speed. But running seems to be the only exercise that I consistently stick with, and no matter what happens, I always find myself going back to it.

It’s finally turning into fall here in Tokyo, so it’s running weather again! Now that it’s not sticky hot with 90% humidity, as summers here are well through September, I can go outside and run without feeling like my clothes are sticking to my skin. I’ve struck up something of an unofficial training plan to try and finally get some real progress under my belt, and so far, it’s been working. Last week I ran 4 times for 25 total kilometers, and today I ran for the second time this week and one of my better 5k times (32:30).

I always used to think that running was a solitary activity, and even a few runs with one of my best friends when I was in grad school didn’t really change that. But after I got to Japan, there were a few months in my second year here where I was running every Friday with my bestie, and afterwards we would order pizza and watch a movie (so we could eat without guilt!). Now, I run with my husband, and it’s some of the best runs that I have – it feels fun and easy, and we talk while we are running and don’t have much by way of a destination or goal. We both agree that we enjoy our pair runs so much we’re going to schedule them in on the few days that our evening schedules match up.

Running is one of the few activities that you can do without any equipment other than some good shoes and your motivation. My favorite shoes are my ASICS – once I switched, I never looked back. I’m using the Gel-Cumulus series right now, and I really love them! (I’m a heel-stepping over-pronator, and they help with all that.) You can run anywhere and almost anytime, and in a land where gym memberships run anywhere from $80-120 a month, it’s nice to be able to choose the free option around my neighborhood instead.

And running has so many benefits – building muscle, training your heart, and helping reduce stress! As someone who suffers from some fairly bad anxiety, I can definitely see the difference in my stress levels when I’m running regularly. I sleep better, too, with more energy during the day. The only real drawback is that I’m so hungry all the time!

Running might not be for everyone, and I’ve already suffered some injuries since it’s a high-impact exercise on knees and other joints, but I’m glad there are others who love running as much as I do. Is anyone else a runner? Why do you do it?

011. editors & editing

As I’m currently going through my first round of edits with my editor from NineStar Press, who will be publishing my F/F fantasy romance novella in February, I thought I would center this blog post around editing and editors.

I’ve really been enjoying this experience so far, even though it takes quite a long time to get through these changes and I’m working on a deadline while still holding down my full-time job, my social life, and the household chores that fall on my shoulders. My editor is wonderful at pointing out the things I tend to do way too much – word repetition, semi-colon use, and shifting things to passive voice when they should be active. I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work through multiple drafts like this, because already, the things she has pointed out are things I will now apply to my other works as I’m creating second and third drafts.

With my self-published novel, I hired a freelance editor to do line-edits on my “mostly ready” draft near the end of the process, and I use beta readers to do the majority of the story development edits before I ever think about giving the work to an editor. With NSP, my editor is filling both roles, so it’s a different experience working through things with her. And the suggestions for changes are usually at my discretion, though I can’t say that I reject very many of them – she definitely knows best!

As for the overall plot and structure, my novella hasn’t needed much since I went through myself on multiple rounds and adjusted the pacing that I thought it needed. But when The Life Siphon went through its second draft, I ended up redoing, removing, and altering entire chapters at a time. There was a huge shift between the first and second drafts, and all of the changes were for the better (even if, at the time, taking out whole chapters caused physical pain!). I can’t stress enough how important my beta readers are, and how much their input has shaped the course of both The Life Siphon and the upcoming second book.

Editing might be a thankless job, so I hope I can convey my gratitude to my editor once this novella is ready to publish. It’s already been a great learning experience!

010. autumn is just around the corner

Are you on NoiseTrade? If you are, The Life Siphon is now available for download there! If you aren’t sure what NoiseTrade is, it’s a site that connects fans with books, music, and other content in order to create new connections and increase visibility. As always, if you enjoyed the book, it would mean a lot if you would consider leaving a review on Goodreads or Amazon! Reviews are so helpful for indie authors.

My husband and I are back from our two-week holiday in SE Asia, which means I’m back at work and back to writing again. While I’m a terribly inconsistent writer at the best of times, often going days without writing before sitting down and pounding out 4,000 words, I’m trying to work myself into a routine that is more dedicated. So far, I’ve written at least 500 words each day this week, and am aiming to continue this. I’ve never been able to really keep up a schedule like this due to real life, anxiety, and work issues, but I’m hoping that at least setting the goal will motivate me to try and meet it each day.

The progress so far means that the first draft of The Life Siphon book 2 is now at 67,000 words!

For more specific updates regarding book availability, and an upcoming title and cover reveal in the late fall, make sure you sign up for the newsletter – hopefully there will be some cool stuff coming down the line like subscriber exclusive bonus content and first looks at the new publications!

I’m also halfway through my summer read-a-thon; real life fell during some unfortunate times this summer, and severely impacted my ability to finish the list, but I’ll still be working through the titles that I can during the fall.

009. Summer Vacation Read-a-thon!

As I’m now on the much-anticipated summer vacation portion of my yearly teaching duties – hooray! – I’ve started a bit of a read-a-thon. Prior to vacation starting, I scouted out the books I wanted to read and review during the summer holidays: genre fiction in the fantasy and historical genres that just happen to have LGBTQ+ protagonists. Much of the LGBTQ+ fiction available today is contemporary, and it’s great that so much is now available, but my first love is genre fiction, and so when I find fantasy or historical books that feature LGBTQ+ protags, I get very excited! As such, I collected some books that I’ll be reading and reviewing during the summer holidays that fall into these categories.

I thought I’d post the reading list here, too. There are a few books included that are written by fellow NineStar Press authors (the press that will be publishing my F/F novella come February), and some that I stumbled upon while perusing GoodReads lists. If you want to keep up with my reviews (and remember, I only ever post reviews as a reader! You should never take them as fact about the quality of books), you can follow my GR profile here.

(All authors marked with * are from NineStar Press.)

  1. Justin’s Season by S. M. Sawyer*
  2. Making Love by by Aidan Wayne*
  3. The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  4. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  5. The Sisterhood by Penelope Friday
  6. Fagin’s Boy: The Further Particulars of a Parish Boy’s Progress by Christina E. Pilz
  7. Into the Mystic (Vol. 1) by NineStar Press (anthology)*

It’s possible that, if I read very quickly, I might have some extra time at the end to add some more – during my vacation, I’ll be traveling a lot on planes, and will have quite a lot of reading time. If you have any suggestions for other books that would fit into this category – which is admittedly rather hard to find – please let me know! I’m always excited to get new genre book recs with LGBTQ+ protagonists.

008. weekly writing updates

It’s been a long time between updates due to my job stealing all of my time, drive, and creativity away for the past three weeks – it’s a rough time period when we hit the end of a semester, and the exams, grading, and paperwork is all due in a heap. It’s not an enjoyable time at all, but we are nearing the end of it with only a few more administration days and some unfortunate summer camp requirements, and once I’ve cleared that, it’s home free summer vacation time!

I’m really hoping that as my creativity surges back without being constantly dampened by my full-time job, my writing juices will start flowing again as well, and so far, looking at only today, it seems to be working: I wrote more today in two hours than I had for over three weeks, and this week finally managed to finish a chapter that I’d been picking at since the beginning of July. Hooray! This bodes well for productivity over the break – at least until my husband and I take off for a much-anticipated vacation.

In the meantime, you can still get The Life Siphon for free from Story Cartel for a few more days, in exchange for an honest review, and I’m plugging away at the second book in hopes that the first draft will be ready to be attacked with the editing pen in the fall – when I am also hoping to do a cover and title reveal, including a Goodreads giveaway of some paperback editions of The Life Siphon! Look forward to that, and I hope everyone is having a great summer so far.