Books

Friday, July 19, 2019

Tragedy in Japan Kills Thirty-three

Back in 1996, I was in high school and I was clearly too old for cartoons. Then out of nowhere, Nickolodeon started playing Dragonball on the weekends. While the art interested me enough to watch it if it was on, the story did almost nothing for me. Whenever I'd get into the story, they'd take three episodes to have people scream about how they were powering up and it drove me mad. Even now, I am not a Dragonball fan, unless its TeamFourStar's Dragonball Z Abridged (if you haven't seen it, go check it out). Fortunately, a few months after Dragonball had started to air, Sailor Moon came out. 

I denied for months that I actually liked this silly cartoon about a crybaby who saves the world through the power of love and friendship... but the truth was that I was enamoured, both of the art style and the stories they told, a romance to last through the ages. Magical Knight Rayearth was the next thing to show up at my local card shop. Then a store opened selling bootlegs video cassettes. I bought posters, videos, cards... nearly everything I could. And when I met my boyfriend, the man I eventually married, he introduced me to even more. Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Ranma 1/2, Macross Plus... 

That was a little over 20 years ago now. 

So when I say that anime has been a huge influence on me and my writing (which I originally began writing around the same time... it was horrible), I'm not simply jumping on a bandwagon. The Asian style of storytelling is different than what is done in the west and I adore it, even if it means that I have to admit that Dragonball is simply a super-extended story and not straight out bad writing (in most cases). Hells, this year I'm helping to give a panel on how to incorporate Japanese storytelling into your writing. I suggested the panel to friends who write Asian fiction, wrote up the base description and submitted the version the rest of my friends helped edit to WWC. 

This has been a long-winded way of coming around to it, but I wanted to give some background before I jumped right into the news today. 

On July 17, a man started screaming death threats in the front office of Kyoto Animation Studio 1 in Uji. He splashed the area with a flammable substance and then lit the studio on fire. With the front door and bottom floors blazing many people tried to escape other ways. Most went for the roof. At the time of this writing, thirty-three people have been confirmed dead in the arsonist's blaze, with nearly everyone else in the building injured. My heart goes out to everyone involved in the attack and to all of Japan, dealing with the shockwaves of this incident rolling throughout the country.

I have no stakes here beyond my love for the art and my respect for this incredible company which is known for promoting women directors and paying their workers more than above-average wages. Yet somehow this attack feels personal, like I lost something, even though I have lost nothing. I'm stuck feeling confused, lost, and angry as hell over this. Perhaps that's just grief I'm feeling at such senseless destruction and loss of life. I've certainly lost nothing compared to those poor people who lost their lives or to those who survived and will have to live with the injuries of this ordeal for the rest of their lives. 

I am not going to put that man's name in my blog. I don't believe in giving people like him the screentime. I do want to send my heart out to everyone who worked in the building or had family that was injured or died. There has been a GoFundMe started to help the survivors and families of those who died. If you can help, please do. If you can't, then please at least share the link and the news so that people know what happened. 

I'll end here, still confused and lost... because what else can I do when all I'm feeling is anguish for those involved. Again, my prayers goes out to everyone in Japan, and every victim of this senseless attack, but most especially to those who actually worked for Kyoto Animation. Our hearts all beat for you today.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The First Days Back are Always the Hardest

... especially when you changed your sleep schedule for it. I was full of hope, ready to get back to work last week and yet, I am definitely not up to where I wanted to be working yet. Still, I have finished 15 more pages of the edit, which leaves me 85 to go. I'm not worried about getting it done yet, but I really do need to get to work on it, if that makes sense. That said, I'm going to keep this one short this week. 

Last Sunday was my second signing and despite a few hickups, it went swimmingly. I sold a few copies, I had the poster of my cover in their window all day. I got to talk to more than a few people and get the lay of the land. I didn't sell quite as many novels as I'd originally guessed, but I had forgotten to account for the fact that it was the first weekend of Stampede which, again, made for a quiet weekend for the location. Still, despite that, I really enjoyed myself. The staff was great, as well. 





In very interesting news, I started my first advertising campaign for Hunter's Gambit. Hopefully, I'll have some interesting factoids for you once it's over and I have some information to compare it to. Also, hopefully, it will get Hunter's Gambit out there and a few more reviews. Before I move on from this point, I'll remind everyone that if you've read my novel, reviews really help, even if you're going to give me a low star rating or your entire review is "I really liked it". Amazon specifically, but other places as well, use those reviews to decide if they start working to share your stuff with others. Please, if you want to help me out, leave a review. 

And I think that's where I'll end this week. Next week, I think I'll jump back into religion... so which religion of Hunter's Gambit would you like me to talk about next? Let me know in the comments below. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Mini Vacation

A year ago, for I and my husband's 10th anniversary, we got out of the city and travelled to Banff. While we enjoyed the trip all-around, the mind-blowing thing for me was the hot springs. Despite being within a few hours drive from Calgary, I had never been to them before. I am one of those women who is almost always cold, so the feeling of almost being too hot was amazing and I loved it. Since I've discovered it, we have gone back twice more on day trips. Yesterday was the most recent trip. It was rainy and cold; mixed with the hot water, again, I was in heaven. It's nice on warm days, but I much prefer cold days instead. I brought back pictures of the hot springs, if not me in it... I'm one of those people who refuses to take my phone into a pool.

This is the view from the front steps. You can see a bit of Banff in the background but look at how close the clouds were to us. It's one of the reasons I love heading up into the mountains. That hill on the other side actually goes much higher and its all covered by clouds.

This was the hot spring pool.  Not as rustic as it originally was, but the fog, low clouds, heat and rain combined to make it a truly magical experience.

This is what is left of the original springs... while without the clouds it looks dull, with the clouds and fog it looks rustic and wonderful. You can expect me to try to slip it into a book one of these days.

I adored the trip! If you haven't been to the Upper Banff hot springs, five out of five will go again is my recommendation.

Als, I wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow I'll be at Owl's Nest Books, signing books and chatting up customers from 11am to 2pm. Take a look at their site, it's a gorgeous little shop. You can expect some pictures as always!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Updates!

This week I have a few small announcements to make, so you're getting a half post, rather than a full one.

The first bit of awesome news is that I am only 100 pages away from having the sequel to Hunter's Gambit, tentatively titled Lord's Curse edited, and while this week has been a setback to editing (darn summer colds), I should have no problem finishing this draft before the end of Camp Nanowrimo in July. From there, I'll need to find an editor and take it through another edit. Unless something odd happens, I am still expecting to have that novel coming out late this year.

The next bit of awesome is that I have another signing set up! On July 6th, I will be at Owl's Nest Books (815A 49th Ave SW, Calgary, AB) from 11am to 2pm! I am super excited to have another signing. The table may even be bigger this time, which will be super exciting. I will let all of you know how that one goes, and of course, I'll have pictures!

For my third update, I am plugging a new book that I finished reading a couple of weeks ago and loved. The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Jones is a book about a woman trying to discover her father's secrets and another woman who is that secret. Based on the true stories of Japanese brides left in Japan after the war, this story left me in tears. The writing is beautiful, the story is compelling and it highlights a little known time in history, one that both countries would prefer to forget. If you haven't already picked this one up, it would make a great addition to your summer/winter reading list.


My last fun bit of news is that I have been doing sketches nearly every day for the last little while. If you'd like to join me, tag me on Instagram and post your own sketches or just enjoy other's people art. If you don't follow there, here are my latest pictures!

These are some pre-sketches where I planned out what I wanted to do for a full artwork for the video game Journey. I haven't gotten started on it yet, but I think it will look gorgeous when its done.

Some days, I get stuck on an image. In this case, the demonic, dead eyes of an Oddish from Gen 1 pokemon was my inspiration.

This fairy turned out wonderfully, except for her hands. She was supposed to be just leaning on a table on her wrists. something about it just didn't work. I may have to revisit the character one day. 

Kitten! Nothing else needs to be said.

This one turned out surprisingly well. The only thing that could have gone better is the outlining. I kind of preferred the sketchy look it had before I outlined it.

A few errors but I like the way she turned out. I may have o revisit the character in a less stiff position later. Also, I can't decide if she's a nobleman's daughter, or simply the daughter of a commoner with a rich suitor. What do you think?

Jessica Jones. Her neck is way too long, her leg is way too thin, and the liner pen didn't work with the Copics and reactivated in multiple places... despite that, I kind of like it. 

I saw a hoodie dress and wanted to draw a character in a similar outfit. I quite like the way it turned out.

I'll was drawing with one of my Youtubers. The prompts were aardvark, lemur, pink, grey and unicorn. Mine turned out way more lemur than aardvark, but I like it. I'm hoping to paint it later. If I do, I'll update it here. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

A Pre-Order Giveaway

Tonight, I'm taking you away on a further journey than we normally make here. Why you ask? Well, a few weeks ago, you'll remember that I hosted a cover reveal for one of my favourite authors, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Her new book, Shard & Shield, is releasing on July 2nd, and she has an epic pre-order thing going on. The ebook pre-order is only $1.99 USD too, which is a great price on its own. With your pre-order, she has digital loot to give away, and you even have a chance of being entered into the grand prize for some physical goodies as well! 

Again, I am in love with this cover. Its evocative and makes me want to know more.

The digital prizes are really nice. You'll get a prequel to the Shard & Shield. She calls it a short story, but at 9000 words, it's pretty much a novelette in its own right. You'll also get a digital colour copy of her world's map and some never before seen character art. Offhand, I have seen the character art now and it is wonderful. I haven't had a chance to read the short story yet, but it looks good, too.

For the three grand prize winners, she has signed physical copies of her book, as well as a printed copy of the map and some characters cards. You also get an actual shard of crystal, much like the character has in the book (though missing the magic of its namesake, unfortunately). 

Now, if all that, and her wonderful writing, isn't enough to get you excited, then consider this. While researching into slavery for one of her characters, Laura found out just how pervasive an issue slavery still is in our world. Over 40,000,000 people today are slaves, and 1 in every 4 is a child. Laura is taking a stand and trying to make things better. In addition to your loot, for every pre-order, Laura is going to donate $2 to the International Justice Mission. They're a charity whose stated mission is to end slavery in our lifetime. And for all you math whizzes out there, yes. That means she's donating more than she's getting for every pre-order. Say what you will, but that is what I call dedication to a cause. 

Note: Apparently, in an all too common case of "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished", Laura has had to change the legal terms of her donation. Why? Well, there are a multitude of laws out there specifically to stop people from playing the system which, annoyingly, make it more difficult to donate into the system, because of course it does. Please check out Laura's update where she gets into more detail about it. More importantly, what does this mean for you, fellow reader? Very little. Laura is still donating $2 for every pre-order of Shared and Shield. In fact, she's donating even more now. So you can still pre-order and know that your money is going to a good cause. The fine print that I mention below just has a few additional lines underneath it to keep Laura from getting in trouble for trying to do a good thing. 

There is some fine print, of course. Mainly that IJM is not a sponsor and does not have any connection with the event. They're just the ones that Laura personally found the most deserving to donate to. Also, she's restricting the physical grand prize to the USA only, since shipping can be prohibitively expensive at times.  

So how do you enter? Just order your copy of Shard & Shield and send a copy of your pre-order receipt to Laura at preorders@lauravanarondonkbaugh.com . If you really can't pre-order, you can also send your local library a request to carry Shard & Sheild. In that case, just forward a copy of your request to the email above, as well. For those people who are pre-ordering the physical book, things can be a bit more difficult. Laura will be accepting pictures of your receipts for the physical book until the end of her release day, again on July 2nd. For audible fans, she suggests sending a request to your local library's since it can sometimes be a few days behind release everywhere else. 

I suggest going to Laura's site and reading her post on this, and watching the video she put out as well. In addition to getting the full low-down directly from her, you can also sign up for her mailing list (if you're interested and not already a member there is usually a short story that you receive for doing so and as a member, I can promise that her emails are rare and not invasive). You can also look over the full list of her releases to see what interesting releases you may have missed. 

I will be ordering my own copy this weekend. Will you? 

Friday, June 14, 2019

My First Signing

I originally had my signing date set for a late weekend in April and as you probably know, that ended up changing. I was stoked until I realized that it was the same weekend as the Calgary Comic Expo. Now, I was not afraid. I unabashedly think I wrote a great novel. However, I also know that I am a completely unknown author at this point and that the Calgary Expo draws in Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans from all over the country. That would have been wonderful, except that they all would have been at the Expo, not hitting the local bookstores. So, I opted for a different Sunday, early in June, and they were kind enough to agree to the change. 

I spent the extra time making sure that I had a great setup for the day! I bought some black velvet and made a table cloth. I created a cross-stitch logo. I bought and painted crates that would match the colours on my book, picked up fairy lights and book holders to stand my book up with. I even ordered a large poster of my cover and had bookmarks created for it. The table was a bit smaller than I was hoping, but I made do. My husband kept me calm and we set up, deciding to only use one of the crates. We strung the lights simply over the top of the crate, behind the books and over to the books that were standing up.


I greeted nearly everybody personally that walked in. Anybody who looked over at me, I smiled at and most of them were asked if they wanted to hear about my book. Most agreed, and everybody that did seemed interested. Not everybody bought, of course. A few picked up the book eagerly only to put it down and wander off, and a few that were hesitant about taking a copy from me took that copy home with them in the end. What surprised me most was the gentleman who asked if my book was already a movie, and swore up and down that it needed to be made into one, based entirely on how evocative my cover was. 
I was so proud...
Unsurprisingly, I discovered that when I was standing up, a lot more adults were willing to come over and talk than when I was sitting down, while anyone younger than 18 seemed to find me less threatening more approachable when I was sitting down. About half seemed surprised to find out that I was actually the author, and that I was willing to sign their books while I was there.

The crew said that it was quieter than a regular Sunday. Despite that, they said that I seemed to get a lot of traffic at my table simply because I engaged with people, whether about my novel or not, and that I had a much nicer set up than some of the authors they'd had in. They took a few extra books at the end, making that the second store in the city of Calgary that carries my book physically (the other is Owl's Nest Bookstore) and I am super excited about it!

What do you think of my table? Did you like my set-up? 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Rituals and Celebrations of the Sian Ku


Okay, before we start today's post, I want to remind all of you that I'll be at the Sunridge Chapters in Calgary, Alberta for a signing on Sunday, June 9th, from noon to 3pm. Come in, pick up a signed copy of the book, or let me know what you enjoyed most about the book! I'd love to see all of you out there! With that out of the way, today is our final post on the religion of the Sian Ku. We'll discuss symbols and then move on to their calendar, holy days and rituals. 

The symbol which the people consider the holiest is a three-tongued flame surrounded by ten interlocking animals; the dragon, the rat, the turtle, the koi, the crane, the fox, the kirin(an Asian mythological creature, usually compared to the western unicorn, with the body of a deer, the cloven hooves of a goat, the scales of a dragon and the whiskers of a fish. Its horns are usually deerlike as well, and while they are sometimes drawn with a single horn they are just as often drawn with two or more. This artist is amazing and their picture is exactly what the ones in my world look like, though in Japan they look a lot more dragonish), the Phoenix, the tiger, and the fairy pitta (a type of bird known as the eight-coloured bird Japan. Beautiful, ne?).  Lesser symbols are a knife blade (usually made of obsidian) and the symbol of a waxing crescent moon.

Koi Image by Анна Куликова from Pixabay 
Sian Ku’s calendar is set according to the lunar cycle, though Himiko and the other Sian Ku in Hidan only use it for rituals, having converted to the one the Drevens use, a mythic cycle created using the heroes of each age as a guideline. There are nine holy days in a calendar year that are celebrated by everyone and three ritual days that are personal to the family. Five of those celebrated by all focus on past revelations and stories of the deities associated with them. The remaining four commemorate astronomical events that happen yearly, and the birthdays of the current rulers of Sian Ku. The last three are done to celebrate all the members of the family in the past year; those who are alive, those who are dead and a personal birthday.

Holy days are often celebrated by raucous parades and half somber praying followed by games of chance being played in the streets (cards, of course, but also dice, and games you might see played at fair or festival in Japan, like throwing hoops at bottles or catching goldfish with paper hoops), food and ostentatious gift-giving. The more extravagant a gift, the more it is supposed to be appreciated. To clarify, the gift doesn't have to be expensive by any means. However, it should be large, many or impressive. 

One memorable gift that is still spoken of in shocked whispers was the gift of eight hundred of the most beautiful women in the country wearing nothing but jewels and smiles, given to a recent Empress by her (supposedly blessed) female consort.

While holy celebrations are raucous events that show little solemnity except by the clergy or when anyone else is giving the kami or rulers their justly due respect, the rituals of family include fasting, meditation and sometimes the preparation of objects to be laid out in ritual (usually for the ancestors). Aside from music, played by a member of the family, rituals are silent, usually taking place in the home.

The highest forms of art are writing, papermaking, and more rarely, wood carving and all noble-born in Sian Ku learn at least one of these arts. For Himiko and Kuzunoha, while a high emphasis was placed on writing, neither particularly enjoyed the art. Himiko did take a liking to the Dreven preferences of music and song, a preference her father accepted. All of Kuzunoha’s preferred “arts” were considered unacceptable for one reason or another.

The only thing left to talk about is the afterlife. The Sian Ku believe that when one finally dies, they are judged and spend a period of timelessness atoning for any sins they committed. Once finished, it is believed that you will spend the rest of eternity devoted to your descendants.
There is one out from this future.  A select few return; those re-birthed are outed when at puberty, they become eleden. Such people are considered to have fallen from a place of grace, having abandoned their familiar duty to return to the land of the living. Some continue to watch over their new family for generations, though from afar since they are usually spurned by their families.

One day, I would like to hire an artist to make the holy symbol of the Sian Ku for me… most likely an expense for a future book, maybe book three when we get to see a lot more of the religion as it applies to the characters. What do you find most interesting about the Sian Ku religion? Let me know in the comments below.