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.


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??


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


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. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Traitor's Hope Awards Eligibility (aka Long Shot in the Dark)

Well folks, this is an odd thing, but if you follow a number of SFF authors' blogs you may notice that a few of them are posting reminders about which of their works are eligible for awards like the Hugos and others.

Certainly, a few of the authors whose works I enjoy make these posts every year, and I've always thought, Man, wouldn't it be cool if my books were eligible for the Hugos?

Funny thing. Turns out they are. Or, well, Traitor's Hope is, as it was published in 2017, is over 40k words, and is a work of fantasy. (Blade's Edge would have qualified in the year it was published if I'd had any idea that was a thing, but I didn't, so that ship has sailed.)

So, umm... consider this my official announcement. If you happen to be reading this, happened to enjoy Traitor's Hope, and happen to be eligible to nominate books for the Hugos, it qualifies for the category of Best Novel.

I realize, of course, that the chances of someone nominating it are slim, let alone it going any further than that, but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained.

So, here is Traitor's Hope: Chronicles of Gensokai Book II, for your consideration....


For centuries the Rōjū council silenced all who opposed them, spreading lies and killing innocents in order to maintain the status quo and ensure that female Kisōshi were little more than a long-forgotten myth. Now that Mishi and Taka have helped to depose the corrupt council, the land of Gensokai is reeling as it takes its first steps towards recovery. As the New Council attempts to corral the renegade allies of the defunct regime, Taka is asked to take charge of a frontline infirmary, putting her in the heart of the battle. To survive, she will have to rely on a person she cannot possibly trust.

Meanwhile, Mishi is asked to lure a vicious band of mountain raiders into the open--a mission that has proven fatal to all who have attempted it so far. Making matters worse, Mishi's mind keeps betraying her and she fears that her kisō and katana will betray her next. As the two friends fight to re-establish the peace in their homeland, the only question is where the next betrayal will come from, and if Mishi and Taka will have the strength to survive it.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Poor, neglected blog...

Well, folks, it has been a busy few months since the release of Traitor's Hope. I didn't mean to go radio silent, but it happened anyway. Between cover design and formatting work, the holidays, writing, and taking care of my daughter, there hasn't been much time for blogging or anything else.

Still, I aim to do better in the coming months, and hope you'll forgive me for missing December entirely and only sneaking one quick blog post in here at the end of January.

Because it has been a while since I've written, we're going to hop straight to bullet points to cover as much as possible without burying you in an endless pile of text.

  • The Traitor's Hope launch has gone quite well--not as well as I'd hoped, but better than I expected, so that's something. :-) It has also led to a dusting off of Blade's Edge, and lots of copies of both books are selling each month (*lots is a relative term, lots more than were selling prior to the launch, which is to say I went from selling 1-3 copies per month to 1-3 copies per day--that's a huge increase, but it's still peanuts in the publishing world). 
  • My cover design and formatting business is chugging along nicely. I have gotten a lot of design work from November to now and I am really looking forward to sharing the designs I did for a relaunch of a series that I was hired for, but that won't happen until Feb/Mar because the author is timing the relaunch for that period and I'm (understandably) not allowed to reveal the covers before that. In the meantime, I have designed a few other covers that I can share, and I've created a number of pre-made covers to sell, so it's probably worth going to check out my new design site: (I am working on transferring the domain name from my old site, but it's not working properly yet, so for now we get the free domain assigned by the host site.) 
  • Work on the Victoria Marmot series has stalled out a bit during the month of January (and most of December) but is due to start back up again in the next week as my husband takes some time off to stay home with Cedar for a bit so I can knock out some serious writing.
  • I have big plans to schedule myself some outdoor adventures in 2018 as I have been sorely missing them. I got to climb on real rock in November for the first time in two years and it was sooooooooooo good. I have to get back to more of that, so I am working on taking some time for myself. How can I model being a proper badass to Cedar if I don't take time to go play outside? 
  • It is cold and snowy here in Winnipeg but the river has frozen up nicely so there is lots of skating to be had and it is sunny even when it's cold out, so I remain happy. 
  • I got a new pour over coffee set up for Christmas and my mornings are now a happy time filled with delicious coffee and reading books to a one year old who can now point to the pictures and say the names of the things she sees, so that's a pretty fantastic way to start my day.
Well, I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but I have to get back to some design work. I have a limited window for productivity while Cedar is asleep and I need to make use of as much of it as I can. Here are the three newest pre-made covers. They're available for purchase for $50 over on my new site (again or you can book me for a custom cover over there too. Hope everyone is off to a good start in the New Year!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November as usual, plus an Asian Themed Promo!

Starting with a bonus, if you're like me and snowed in on this cozy Saturday afternoon you might well be looking for a good book. If you have an e-reader, you'll find that the 99cent promo above is full of awesome books that are all on sale (with one exception) for $0.99. All the books in the promo either take place in asian, or asian style, lands, worlds, mythologies etc. Please note that the one exception to the $0.99 rule is... Blade's Edge. Sorry, due to extenuating circumstances the lowest I could drop my price for this promo was $1.99. However, chances are good if you're reading this blog that you've already read Blade's Edge, and so really, you should be excited about all the other lovely books priced at $0.99.

Ok. Meanwhile, back in the land of my crazy-assed brain, it's National Novel Writing Month again! (And not just in my head. It's NaNoWriMo for everyone else too.)

Which means I'm writing furiously every day and this time I'm working on taking the Victoria Marmot webserial and turning it into a three novella series (which will be followed by another three novella series). I plan to release all three books in the spring or summer of 2018. So keep an eye out for that!

I have to run now (busy weekend), but I will post a recap of C4 soon! Hope this finds everyone well. Enjoy the snow (if you've got it)!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Launch Week Recap

Well, Traitor's Hope is out in the world and doing its thing. The week leading up to and away from the launch were both interesting and I learned a lot from them....Because I don't want this post to sound whiny, I'll start with the good stuff, and move on from there. Honestly, I'm so wiped emotionally from the past two weeks I don't have much energy for this post, but I feel the need to get it down on "paper" while it's still fresh so here goes.

Good things that came out of the whole* launch process:
*Keep in mind that the launch process is ongoing, started long before October 9th and will continue far past today, but those are the two weeks we're going to focus on for the moment.

  • Two amazing reviews of both Traitor's Hope and Blade's Edge by book bloggers who not only loved the books but who are also very thorough and thoughtful reviewers. The reviews on Blushing Bibliophile are wonderful and thoughtful but contain mild spoilers. The reviews on Jena Brown Writes are spoilerless and perfect and so thoughtful they almost made me cry. You can find her review of Blade's Edge here, and of Traitor's Hope here. Honestly, these four reviews make up for everything else that went wrong on launch week. I write for myself, I publish for readers who want to read the same books that I wish there were more of, and it makes me SOOOO happy when readers find my books and it's just what they were looking for. 
  • Traitor's Hope also received a solid and thoughtful review from the talented Nick Bryan, author of the Hobson & Choi books (which I really do recommend, if you haven't read them already). 
  • Readership of Blade's Edge likely more than doubled in the past week. I ran a free promotion on Blade's Edge and over 4000 people downloaded it. Even if only 25% of those people ever read it, that's still a huge increase in audience. Yay! Hopefully, they'll love it and then read Traitor's Hope next! (One can dream.) 
  • Blade's Edge's ranking on Amazon skyrocketed during the free promotion! #67 was its highest in the WHOLE STORE and it was #1 in its top three categories! :-)
  • The Traitor's Hope launch party was in the black! In other words, enough books sold at the launch party to cover the costs of the party with a bit left over! Yay!
  • Traitor's Hope was the #3 bestseller in Winnipeg for its launch week! Yay! 
  • I gained lots of facebook and twitter followers thanks to the blog tour and giveaway, and had some fun interactions with folks on both platforms. Yay!
  • It was so lovely to see people at the book launch at McNally's and hang out with folks before during and after the event! The reading went well and the aikido demonstration was kick ass! Photos will be coming soon, once I get them from my photographer. SUPER YAY!
Less than good things that came out of the whole launch process:

  • Fake reviews. I was surprised and dismayed to find that a handful of the reviewers who signed up specifically to do a review for the blog tour didn't read the book and instead paraphrased existing reviews along with the book's description in order to fake a review. It was like grading high school papers all over again, except I didn't have the gumption to call anyone out on it. I didn't realize this was a thing that happens, but I have confirmed with other authors that it, sadly, is a thing. 
  • Not much sell through. So far, the thousands of downloads of Blade's Edge have not turned into more than a handful of sales of Traitor's Hope. Not that I expected many, but I was hoping for more than this. 
  • The blog tour has generated a lot of entries to win a free copy of the books, but not much in terms of people actually purchasing the books. I had an inkling this might be the case, but had thought at least a handful of people would actually buy the books. Apparently not.
  • Missed posts on the tour. There were a number of bloggers who missed their posts, or posted late, or didn't post what they said they would. The poor organizer had to prod them many times and it left me feeling like almost no one actually cared about the book at all (an overreaction I'm sure, but hey launch week is a touchy week for author feelings). 
That's all I can think of for now, and honestly, I need to go write a bit to put some balm on my soul (yep, I totally just massacred that metaphor, you're welcome). The whole launch process is surprisingly emotionally draining even the second time around, and even with adjusted expectations after everything I learned the first time around. Now I need a definite break from social media (even though that's probably a terrible idea in terms of marketing momentum). 

So, there you have it. A very brief launch week recap. I'll try to provide more details for those who are interested in a follow-up post. In the meantime, I'm off to start new projects and think about other things for a while. I leave you with visuals to some of the highlights I mentioned! 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Traitor's Hope's book birthday is TODAY!

The day is finally here...

It's Traitor's Hope's Birthday!

Traitor's Hope officially joins the world today, and can now be purchased on Amazon in print or ebook formats, and from anywhere books are sold! If your local bookstore doesn't have it in stock (which is likely unless you live in Winnipeg) you can ask for it by name and they can order a copy for you from their regular distribution stream.

We're halfway through the blog tour and it has been a ton of fun, and there's still one week of interviews, reviews, and guest posts left! Don't forget to check out all of those tour stops (links gathered conveniently here).

Tonight is the actual launch party at McNally Robinson, and I am both excited and nervous. Much like last time, I'm not nervous about reading or speaking in front of people (both things I'm used to) but I'm nervous that no one will show up even though I have good reason to believe that plenty of people will be there. Oh well, fingers crossed!
A preview of Traitor's Hope
THE BACKHAND CAUGHT Kusuko by surprise and the sting alone brought tears to her eyes. She blinked, and the open, sparsely decorated room regained some of its focus. She wondered if the dizziness was more to do with the slap, or with the injuries she hadn't quite recovered from fully. 
She stared at the large wooden beams that spanned the ceiling above Mamushi-san's head, ignoring his sharp features, greying hair, and dark brown eyes, and tried to dismiss the tears before they could raise his ire.
“That,” Mamushi-san said, calmly folding his hands over his midsection so the sleeves of his kimono lay neatly atop one another, “is for drawing a sword against the first Rōjū without orders to do so.”
The second backhand wasn't a surprise, and Kusuko took it stoically.
“And that,” he continued, “is for almost getting yourself killed for your troubles. If that female Kisōshi had not saved you with her incredible display of power, you would be dead along with everyone else caught in that blast of wind. That is unacceptable.”
“I am sorry Mamushi-san,” Kusuko replied, keeping her chestnut eyes downcast. She would have to adjust her face paints after this meeting, but for now it was better not to remind Mamushi-san that he'd been “forced” to hit her. “I did not attack the first Rōjū. It was that hifu. She was drawn to the freedom offered by Kuma-sensei and his allies. She was drawn to their bravery as well.”
“That may be, but if the skins you adopt for your various assignments cannot follow orders then they have lost their usefulness.”
“Is it not useful to you now that the Rōjū are deposed?”
“Hmph... as if you could have known the outcome of that battle.”
“I did not. My hifu at that time seemed to think the outcome was inevitable, however.”
“Luckily for you she was right. I can still make use of you even though the Rōjū no longer trust you.”
“Do you still serve them?” Kusuko asked before she could stop herself. Luckily, Mamushi decided not to hit her again, he merely glared as he answered.
“They still see fit to pay me. They seem to think that they can regain power given enough time and information.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think that you would serve me best by serving your new allies.”
“They are not my allies, Mamushi-san. You are my only ally. They are the allies of my hifu and nothing more.”
“As you say. You will do well to remember that.” Kusuko didn't flinch the next time that Mamushi-san reached for her, but this time it was a light caress of her cheek. Kusuko glowed at the rare show of affection.
“You will be of great use to me still, little one, if you can continue your guise with Tsuku-san and her allies. Though the New Council purports to have no interest in dealing with spies and assassins, I believe Yasuhiko-san and his wife are more practical than that. They may even maintain my former contract.”
“What are my instructions, then?”
“For now, simply learn as much as you can and gain their trust.”
Kusuko nodded and Mamushi-san stood and crossed to the far side of the room.
“In time, depending on what the first Rōjū plans, and the information I receive, I will send along further instructions.” 
Kusuko rose to take her leave, sensing her dismissal. 
“And Kusuko-san,” Mamushi said, just as she reached for the shoji that would allow her egress into the hallway. “Take care.”
“Yes, father,” Kusuko whispered, as she opened the shoji and left the room. 

Buy Traitor's Hope
Blade's Edge FREE promotion

In celebration of the Traitor's Hope launch, for the next five days, you can get the Blade's Edge ebook for free. This makes a great opportunity to share the series with someone else, so feel free to share this linkaround the internet! 

Radio silence commences now...

While I will be promoting the book for a while yet, and thus may be poking things on Facebook and Twitter occasionally, I won't be sending any more announcements out for a while. The end of October will be spent getting ready for ComiCon and a few other in-person events, as well as prepping for NaNoWriMo, and just taking some time off to enjoy my family. I'll be back once November wraps up and I have a shiny new first draft that I can start polishing into my next book. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book (Blog) Tour Underway!

Well, folks, the Traitor's Hope blog tour has officially started! As Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving, I wasn't around to shout it from the rafters, but the shouting starts now!

First up was an interview with Two Chicks on Books that you can read here! (Ever wondered if I have any phobias, or who my "book boyfriend" is? Neither had I until this interview, and my answers may surprise you!)

Following that was a fabulous review by the Blushing Bibliophile which you can read here! (Warning: contains minor spoilers.) I couldn't be more pleased with Chloe's reaction to Traitor's Hope and Blade's Edge.

And that was just Day 1 (Monday)! On Tuesday Traitor's Hope will be reviewed on Bibliobakes and also be featured in a spotlight on

Every blog over this two-week tour will have links to the Rafflecopter giveaway that we're running featuring signed copies of Traitor's Hope and Blade's Edge as well as three chances to win ebook copies of both books.

Below is the full schedule for the two-week tour, as well as the giveaway! Please check back frequently for new posts on the tour. I had a lot of fun writing guest posts, selecting excerpts, and answering interview questions, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how all of the reviewers respond to Traitor's Hope.

In the meantime, I'm madly prepping for the physical book launch here in Winnipeg where I'll be reading an excerpt from the book, doing a brief Q&A, as well a book signing AND there will be an awesome martial arts demonstration to top the whole thing off. If you're anywhere nearby you should come. There'll be free wine and snacks too. :-) (7pm at McNally Robinson on the 14th of October)

Blog Tour Schedule:
Week One:

10/9/2017- Two Chicks on Books- Interview
10/9/2017- Blushing Bibliophile- Review

10/10/2017- Guest Post
10/10/2017- Bibliobakes- Review

10/11/2017- Kati's Bookaholic Rambling Reviews- Excerpt
10/11/2017- Ashley M. Delgado- Review

10/12/2017- A Dream Within A Dream- Excerpt
10/12/2017- Don't Judge, Read- Spotlight

10/13/2017- BookHounds YA- Guest Post
10/13/2017- Adventures Thru Wonderland- Review

Week Two:

10/16/2017- Novel Novice- Excerpt
10/16/2017- Nick Bryan Dot Com- Review

10/17/2017- Books at Dawn- Guest Post
10/17/2017- YA and Wine- Excerpt

10/18/2017- Fire and Ice- Spotlight
10/18/2017- A Gingerly Review- Review

10/19/2017- My Nook, Books & More- Excerpt
10/19/2017- Jena Brown Writes- Review

10/20/2017- Seeing Double In Neverland- Interview
10/20/2017- Ramblings From An Alternate Reality- Review
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 2, 2017

We interrupt your regularly scheduled book promotion... explain why racism is bad..., wait to explain how gun control might actually help stop mass shootings..., wait to mourn the loss of Tom Petty--No, wait, he's still alive--to send healing thoughts to--No, wait, he's dead...

Oh, f@&k it. Today (Monday) can take a long walk off a short pier.

But seriously, this week was supposed to be about getting psyched for my book launch, and my upcoming blog tour... And then, I realized that I really needed to say something about how important the #takeaknee movement was. Then, this morning happened and... well, it's kind of hard to know where to start.

My home country is going to hell in a handbasket and there is a small handed, toupeed, orangutan at the helm, shouting, "Look at me! Look at me!" all the while.

So, where do I begin? Something needs to be said because... well, I can't abide what's happening in silence. Many people are speaking up, and doing so more eloquently and insightfully than I will manage, but I can't keep quiet, lest anyone think that I don't think there's anything wrong. I don't have much of a platform, but what little platform I have I will use to try to help spread words of sanity. And some of you will say, "But, Virginia, you're a fantasy writer, stick to writing fiction, don't alienate potential readers by getting political." To which I say, "If you think that my fiction doesn't get political I think you must not have read it, and if you think that artists need to be quiet during political turmoil, then you don't know what art's true purpose is."

When I see the world around me turning into a dystopia of fantastical proportions, it is my duty to speak up and do all I can to steer us clear of the same fate as my fictional characters.

There's so much to cover though, that it's a bit overwhelming.

So here we go. Social justice bullet points. This is what the world has come to.

  • Racism: Let's be clear here, racism in the United States is pervasive and systemic and has been so for as long as people of European descent have been present there. But, ignoring the past six hundred years, let's just focus on now. If you don't believe that the United States is currently suffering from pervasive, systemic racism then you are either not paying attention, are willfully ignorant, or you don't understand the definition of racism. If you are being willfully ignorant then there isn't much hope for you, but if you simply haven't taken a good look around, or you don't understand what racism is then there is still hope.

    Let's talk about what racism is then. Because you may be one of the people who looks around and says, "What do you mean, Virginia? It's not like the KKK is lurking around every corner and lynching people left, right, and center. That kind of thing isn't allowed anymore. I don't even know any racists, so what can you possibly be talking about?" There are lots of people who wonder the same thing, so let me explain. Racism isn't just lynching, burning crosses, and using the n word. (Though sadly, that kind of thing is making a comeback, so keep an eye out for that bullshit too.) No, racism is also: not hiring someone because of the color of their skin, saying sentences that start with the words, "but black people...," dismissing violence against black people as being somehow deserved, defending cops who kill unarmed black people, saying "all lives matter" when someone tries to say "black lives matter," not listening/believing when numerous people of color share their experiences with you, and making any generalizations about an entire minority group whether they are positive or negative. (Yes, that's right, saying that Asians are good at math, or that black people have great rhythm is racist. Sorry.) This is just a tiny portion of the kinds of things that make up everyday racism, and we haven't even touched on how skewed the justice system is. Consider for a moment how many unarmed black people have been killed in the past few years by police officers, and then consider how many of those police officers have been prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If you want to read up on it, I suggest checking out articles written by Shaun King.
  • #TakeaKnee -- For all the reasons listed above and far more, a number of athletes lately have been peacefully protesting the pervasive racism in the US, as well as the lack of justice, by kneeling during the national anthem. Ignoring the fact that kneeling is actually a sign of respect and that these athletes are all well within their constitutional rights to protest this way, a bunch of angry white folks (including the angry white folk in chief) have been outraged by this act. If you agree with the angry white folks, you might take a moment to consider the fact that thousands of veterans have taken to social media to side with the #takeaknee movement because:

    "As a combat vet, I fought Nazis of WWII. Today I #takeaknee, once more, in solidarity w/my brothers&sisters still fighting 4 equality&justice." (Quote from Norman Lear on Twitter.) In other words, plenty of people who fought for American freedom take offense at all the people trying to quash people's right to peacefully protest severe injustice.

    As Randi Mayem Singer wrote (also on twitter) "Rosa Parks was not protesting the bus. Gandhi was not protesting the food. Players are not protesting the anthem. It's the injustice, stupid."

    So, yeah, for football fans who are getting all up in arms, or sports fans in general now that the movement is spreading, no it's not about sports, and yes, this is the time and place to protest the injustice. It's about raising awareness and making people discuss and acknowledge what's happening. How many football fans were thinking about racial inequality before players started taking a knee during the anthem? A tiny fraction of the ones discussing it now I can assure you.
  • Gun control -- Just another mass shooting in the US, NBD. Wait, WTF? 58 people (and counting) dying at the hands of an American terrorist should not be something that people just shrug off. It is also a big fat reason to talk about gun control, no matter how much you hate that. Yes, it's a tragedy. Yes, it makes me unspeakably sad. I know people in Las Vegas. I know people who are into the music scene in Las Vegas. Luckily, all of the people that I know are safe. The whole thing is terrifying and awful, and I cannot fathom how terrible it must be for all of the survivors, and the families and friends of the fallen. That does not mean that we shouldn't talk about how we could possibly prevent it from happening again. In fact, it is a very good reason to talk about how we could possibly prevent it from happening again. That isn't politicizing a tragedy, that is trying to react to a tragedy with productive legislation that might stop it from ever happening again. I'm not saying "Get rid of all the guns!" Almost no one is saying that. Most people are just saying, "It's time to talk about how to keep assault rifles and automatic weapons out of the hands of people who might use them to mow down a crowd of people." That is an important conversation to have. I can't believe I have to say that to people.
  • Tom Petty: It makes me sad when humans die, including singers. However, I'm far more
    concerned with the 58 lives lost to an American terrorist than I am about the one famous guy.
I wanted to talk about Puerto Rico, and helping out, and not letting the buffoon in chief stand by while people die, but... but that's all the energy I have for the day. I spent today (and most of the past week, and let's face it every day since November) being horrified, shocked, sad, outraged... and I simply don't have much left. I apologize for all the things I've left out, and for however much of this is poorly written, and I imagine a lot of it is, but it's all I can do for now. 

No. Wait. I can do one more thing.

I'd like to ask a favor. Just a little one. As you go about your life this week, please, be kind to other people. Be kind to the people you love, and be kind to the people you don't even know. We need more kindess in the world, and small things matter. Smile at people. Say hi. Hug. Just, you know.... Be nice. Thank you. I appreciate you.

I'll be back later in the week to talk about my book and stuff.