Get to know Shig Sato – Where Shig Lives

Shig lives in Hyakunincho, Shinjuku, a Tokyo neighborhood very much a part of its urban landscape. Central Tokyo is considered to be inside the Yamanote Commuter Line ‘circle.’ Hyakunincho is one of the many Yamanote neighborhoods that encircle the city.  A ride on the Yamanote line can take you to Tokyo’s festive Ueno Park for cherry-blossom viewing, the newest electronics at Akihabara, the historic Tokyo Station, and the much-photographed Shibuya crossing.  (The train route below with the black and white squares is the Yamanote Line. As you can see, it is a must-ride for any visitor.)SaveThisMap

Why did I place Shig in this neighborhood. It’s where I lived for a time when I was in Tokyo in the late 1980s, in a foreign house not unlike the Yamanote Villa.

First of all: Tokyo is not a city, according to its government system. It is a prefecture all its own, made up of 23 wards, one of which is Shinjuku. Inside Shinjuku is are the districts of Shinjuku, Takadanobaba, Kagurazka, Ichigawa, Yotsuya, and Okubo. Often, train stations take the name of their district. There is an Okubo station, part of the JR East (Japan Railway) line. That station and its predecessors date back to the 1890s. Shin-Okubo (‘New’-Okubo) is a stop on the Yamanote line. It is a station unto itself — it is one of two on the Yamanote line that has no direct service to any other train line.

What follows is a series of screen shots from Google Maps that show some areas of Hyakunincho. It’s Shig’s neighborhood. Its streets are his streets.

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 2.45.25 AM
The building with the blue roof is Shin-Okubo Station on Okubo-dori (Okubo Street). The train tracks to its immediate right is the Yamanote commuter line. The street that leads to Shig’s home is across Okubo-dori, next to the building with the green roof.

 

A view of Shin-Okubo Station
A view of Shin-Okubo Station.
A view of the Yamanote trains and the underpass
A view facing east: Okubo-dori, the Yamanote commuters trains, and the underpass.
The lane that leads to Shig's home
The lane that leads to Shig’s house. Kei’s yakitori-ya would be at the end of the first block on the left.
View walking north, Globe Theatre on right
A view of the lane as it continues north. The Globe Theater is hidden behind the trees on the right.
Closup of Shig's neighborhood
A close-up of Shig’s neighborhood. His house would be situated at the very bottom left, the grey roof across from the red roof. At top right is a neighbor recreational baseball diamond, which was there when I lived in Hyakunincho.

One of my aims in writing the Shig series is to provide directions as accurately as possible. My hope is a person in Tokyo could find ‘Shig’s House’ by the descriptions in my novels. If not, the blame is entirely mine. Have any questions about Tokyo and it’s many wards? Leave a question in the comments and I’ll answer them.

41BihmTO1ILCat’s Meow is Book 4 in the Shig Sato Mystery Series. In a race against time to find a killer before a strikes again, a case from Shig’s past propels him to get to the bottom of the crime spree. Don miss it! Just click. And don’t forget: if you’re reading this on your cell phone or tablet, keep scrolling down. You’ll find all of the Shig Sato Mysteries down there. If you’re reading this on your home computer, you’ll find them on the right. And if you haven’t signed up for the Shig Sato newsletter, you can do that here. Once in a while I share what’s happening with Shig, offer great deals in mysteries and thrillers from my author friends, and announce when the next special will come along. Don’t miss out. Just click here to enter the World of Shig Sato.

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Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with Geoff Nelder

To paraphrase Forrest Gump (and his momma): “twisted is as twisted does”- so grab your free copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s an eclectic collection of stories by authors from around the globe.

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Geoff Nelder. He was a Geography and Maths teacher who gained his MSc and Fellowship of the Royal Meteorological Society partly for research in weather satellites.

ChaosofMokii (1)     Just recently, Geoff Nelder, wrote an experimental fiction, THE CHAOS OF MOKII, as a short story. In this tale there is a city, Mokii, which only exists in the group consciousness of its inhabitants. Olga sits in a train but her mind is busy bluffing past a figment bouncer and into the glorious gothic yet brilliantly lit city where there’s fun but also trouble. Geoff submitted the short story – it’s only a half hour read – to Solstice Publishing, who loved it so much they published it as an ebook. It was a surreal experience for Geoff to be asked for cover art decisions, acknowledgements and blurb pages for a short story!
It’s out already for only 99 pence or dollar equivalent at http://mybook.to/ChaosOM
 

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In the research of Prime Meridian he stayed a Chingford hotel directly on the Prime Meridian and he spent a day walking that 0 degrees longitude from the northern to southern boundaries of London.

Your story ‘Prime Meridian’ appears in the Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology Twisted Tales. What made you decide on that story?

Prime Meridian is my favourite story. It is part autobiographical in that the protagonist is a teacher, who is nothing special but has extraordinary things happen to him. In this case a grape-sized micrometeorite hits his house at the same time every day. He has to find out what’s happening before his home is a pile of rubble. For my research I stayed in a hotel in North London right on the prime meridian (the zero line of longitude) and hiked all the way to the southern edge of London all along that line. Readers who don’t embrace science fiction have delighted in discovering that it’s kind of SciFi and yet isn’t. Humour, character-driven threads and novel ideas are woven in. Great fun.

Did you find writing a short story easier or harder to write than what you’ve written in the past?

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Geoff Nelder

Writing is bloody hard work. I belong to Shorts Anonymous and have to confess I’m addicted to writing them, and have been for more decades than everyone else remembers. Novels? Dead easy. I’ve written eight, had six published, some with awards. Over 80 shorts published – each one costing me sweat and swearing. Some won awards and a few still earn me pennies. Novels give you time to develop characters, plot threads, false leads, be languid and live inside the beast. With shorts you have no damn time in, say, 2k to 10k words and yet the reader doesn’t want to feel hurried. Shorts are different animals to novels. I’m so excited, wound up, needy with my love/hate relationship with shorts I co-wrote a book on how to win short story competitions. How bad is that? Take me away!

Who has been an important influence on your journey as a writer?

Not my wife. She couldn’t give a flying fig unless I sneak her into one, but I value life too much. My car-crash journey as a writer has been steered by nutters such as Tibor Fischer with his crazy, marvellous novel, The Thought Gang. His mind for that story conjured the following: Fact 1 Bank robbers get away with it; Fact 2 Bank robbers are dumb; Idea gather a gang of unemployed philosophers to rob banks in France. Brilliant. He inspired my humorous thriller, Escaping Reality.

For shorts, I stumbled into that brilliant writing of A.L.Kennedy, e.g ., her Now That You’re Back. The skill of ALK’s writing is such that I hadn’t noticed until three-quarters through that collection that she hadn’t used any dialogue tags at all. Phrases I wish I’d written: ‘I have temporarily forgotten how to inhale’; ‘Something impatient about the sky.’

Allan Guthrie helped me tighten my writing so much it hurt. He’s the inventor of the article ‘Hunting down the pleonasm,’ agent, editor, writer of hard-nosed crime. Such a gent (get it?) that he suggested I slip my promo bookmarks into his Two-Way Split novel at his Edinburgh book signing.

What’s your next project?

Works in Progress include Xaghra’s Revenge—a historical fantasy based on the true event in 1551 when everyone on the island of Gozo were abducted by pirates. The ill and old were thrown overboard, the rest sold into slavery. Those souls are crying out for revenge. Yes?

Scoot is a series of illustrated stories for infants. He, his dog and friends, crash into surreal adventures inspired by my own grandkids. Something they can take into school to show off their author granddad rather than my scurrilous books for grownups.

I also write non-fiction. Articles for cycling magazines based on my longer journeys and odd ones such as one I’m dong now—cycling along the top of Offa’s Dyke.

Please share a little more of your writing background.

Dad illustrated a science fiction magazine and as a joke talked mum into having kids. I inherited his SOH and both their affection for science fiction. I wrote comedy sketches for my school players and was an editor and contributor to Sheffield university rag mag, sold for charity. I still see my awful gags around the web today for which I apologise.

A science fiction was my first novel, written (badly) while I was a teacher. Michael Crichton read it at Bloomsbury and it was praised then fell at the final committee fence. Gutted, I didn’t write another thing for hours. Later, I worked for the small publisher, BeWrite Books and became an editor at Adventure Books of Seattle. I still make more dosh editing other people’s stories than from my own but hey ho, it’s all creative writing.

Where can readers reach you?

Heck, I don’t want them to reach me. Have you any idea how often I’ve had to move house to get away from fans? Me neither. However, if they insist:

How to Win Short Story Competitions by Geoff Nelder & Dave Haslett Kindle http://hyperurl.co/283u9s

Geoff’s UK Amazon author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

And for US readers http://www.amazon.com/Geoff-Nelder/e/B002BMB2XY

Geoff facebooks at http://www.facebook.com/AriaTrilogy and tweets at @geoffnelder

http://nelderaria.wikia.com/wiki/NelderAria_Wiki

Geoff’s website http://geoffnelder.com

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Stay tuned for more Meet the Author interviews. If you like what you read in Twisted Tales you’re invited to leave a review on Amazon. Thanks!

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cropped-cropped-fbcoverthisishow.jpgJoseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Holmes, Poirot, and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s SonThe Thief’s Mistake , or Traitors & Lies – and to read how it all began, download my prequel novella Tokyo Summer at josephmarkbrewer.com

Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with C.A. Sanders

To paraphrase Forrest Gump (and his mom): “Twisted is as twisted does”- so grab your free copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s a collection of eclectic stories by authors from around the globe.
Twisted Tales 15LitLiesEpicYarnsFINAL

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog C.A. Sanders. A life-long New Yorker, he lives in the suburbs of NYC with a turtle that he has had since he was six years old. He is patiently waiting for MetroNorth service in his area. He is an unabashed geek and a Dungeons & Dragons addict. He is also ‘the most dastardly Skully player to ever live.’ If you don’t know what Skully is, he’ll be happy to teach you … the hard way.

Your story ‘Skully’ appears in the Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology Twisted Tales. What made you decide on that story?
 
First of all, thank you for letting me ramble on your website. I’ll try not to track in any dirt.

I chose ‘Skully’ because of the anthology’s diversity. There are writers from all of the world in it, and so many different genres, and I wanted to share something that no other story in it covered. ‘Skully’ is a uniquely New York (pronounced New Yawk) story. I grew up in The Bronx (pronounced Da Bronx) during the 80s, and I used to play skully nearly every day. It’s a very New York game (though I’ve heard that they also play it in Philly). The Mister Softee truck, the GI Joes, and the tumbleweeds of cassette tape are all out of my childhood.  I wanted to capture the time and place, but with supernatural aspects. I’m primarily a fantasy writer, and I especially love combining fantasy with history. ‘Skully’ is a perfect example of that.

craig black and white
C.A. Sanders
 Did you find writing a short story easier or harder to write than what you’ve written in the past?
I cut my teeth (not literally) on short stories and news articles, so for me this was more like going back to basics. I think that short stories are harder to write because every word is at a premium. Because of that, beginning writers should always start with them. It teaches you discipline and proper word choice. Do the hard things first and the rest comes easy. It’s like one of my old writing professors said:  If you can’t write a short story, you can’t write a long one. I say the same thing to the people I tutor and edit…they don’t like when I say that.
 Who has been an important influence on your journey as a writer?
 
That’s a tough one. I’m tempted to list all of my favorite writers, but the truth is that you only get better with guided writing, that is, writing with someone more experienced to advise you. Because of that, I have to give the credit to the writing professors and editors that I’ve had over the years. I don’t think anyone suddenly woke up and became a brilliant writer. It takes hard work, a bit of talent, and helpful advice. The first two, I’d like to think I have, but I know that I’ve had the third.
 What’s your next project?
I’m finished up the second draft to the next book in The Watchmage Chronicles. The working title is Cold Iron, and it will hopefully be out in the fall.
Please share a little more of your writing background.

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid (I remember typing out stories on my gramma’s old typewriter, and I majored in Creative Writing in college. I never considered another career besides it. My first story was published in 1999. While trying to impress literary magazines with pretentious prose (and alliteration) I worked as a freelance journalist, mostly music, but occasionally hard news.

Finally, I got sick of both journalism and lit mags. I decided to write what I love: fantasy and sci-fi. My first novel, Song of Simon was published in 2013 by Damnation Books (now Caliburn Press). My second novel, The Watchmage of Old New York, came out in 2015. I plan on writing Watchmage stories for a long time. It’s historical fantasy, and there’s a lot of history out there (and more everyday).

 Where can readers reach you?
Wherever darkness lurks and evil must be avenged … or the local Taco Bell.

If you can’t find me there, you can find me here:

Website: www.casanders.net – it’s a fun site, and I’m active on it. This is the best way to get the true, insane, C.A. experience.

Twitter: @CraigASanders.- I’m a little too active here. Expect a lot of silly memes.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/casandersauthor – I’m not very active, but try it anyway.
You can also buy Song of Simon here, and The Watchmage of Old New York here.
If all else fails, you can lure me into a trap with a trail of egg rolls or tacos. Pizza works too.
“The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” — Walt Whitman
 
Song of Simon from Damnation Books.  Available on site, at AmazonBarnes & Noble, or your local book store.
The Collected Works of Valerie Z. Lewis. Available at Amazon.
The Watchmage of Old New York Available on AmazonBarnes & Noble, and just about everywhere.
Visit my webpage for all things geeky.  We have punch and pie…
Twitter: @CraigASanders

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Stay tuned for more Meet the Author interviews. If you like what you read in Twisted Tales you’re invited to leave a review on Amazon. Thanks!

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake – and sign up for my monthly newsletter at josephmarkbrewer.com

Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with Anita Kovacevic

To paraphrase Forrest Gump (and his momma): “twisted is as twisted does”- so grab your free copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s an eclectic collection of stories by authors from around the globe.
Twisted Tales 15LitLiesEpicYarnsFINAL

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Anita Kovacevic. Anita is an author and a teacher of English. She writes various genres, and has self-published and illustrated an urban-legend novella (The Threshold) and three children’s books (Winky’s Colours, The Good Pirate and Mimi Finds Her Magic). Anita’s stories, poems and illustrations appear in the anti-bullying e-book Inner Giant. Her story ‘Passage’ is published in Awethology Light, and her poem ‘Christmas Surprise ‘ opens the December Aewthology Light. She lives with her husband and children in Croatia and doesn’t know the meaning of ‘free time.

Your story ‘Active vs. Passive’ appears in the Readers Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology Twisted Tales. What made you decide that story?

It is a weird thing when people invite you to write a short story, any topic you want and no word limit at all. I was honoured, then nervous, then I started overthinking. Overthinking never does my writing any good; it may help my editing, but only up to a point.

Anita.photo
Anita Kovacevic

Eventually, I remembered that I already had some stories written, lurking in my files in their rough form, waiting to be spruced up. I chose Active vs. Passive because it is dear to my heart for several reasons. First off, it deals with unnecessary violence and simple kidness, which I both consider relentless, and am always shocked by the first and grateful for the second. Secondly, as a parent and teacher, I consider the story relevant, having witnessed myself how many things go by unnoticed, till it’s too late, for simply not talking about them or listening properly and hearing what the other person has to say.

The story was initially written for my blog challenge, which I organized with some fellow authors at the brink of my writing career adventures, and the mood of the story follows the Inner Giant, an international anti-bullying charity ebook project I participated in with various amazing, selfless educators and artists from around the world. I just had a feeling Active vs. Passive had earned its place in this collection. People ignore the signs of bullying and abuse, sometimes truly not knowing, sometimes burdened by their own issues, sometimes blinded by survival despair. We cannot afford not knowing, especially when it concerns our children.

Did you find writing a short story easier or harder to write than what you’ve written in the past?

Well, I wrote plenty of short stories before, so I never gave it a second thought.

Actually, I never really set out to write a certain format at all. When a scene or character start haunting me, and won’t go away till written out of me, then I write them. It makes no difference to me if it’s a children’s story, a poem, a limerick, a short story or a novel. Some may say writing multiple genres and format means dabbling and still searching for my own author’s voice. In a way, that is true, because I haven’t officially been a (self-)published author for that long, but I have never thought an author had to write one type of texts all the time. But I do believe that different stories have different voices and perspectives, and I try to write them down as I hear them.

Who has been an important influence on your journey as a writer?

Oh so many people, events and things. First of all, I believe all the books I’ve ever read, and still am, all the stories I’ve ever heard or seen, people I’ve met… everything influences us.

When I was a school kid, I actually wrote a lot, mostly in Croatian, although I dabbled in English as well. As a teenager, I threw away every notebook with poems and stories I’d ever written. My parents rescued them, in secret, but when I found out, I got rid of the notebooks again. My parents were my first fans, he he he, and I treated them like a proper diva.

I am sorry now, of course. It would be fun to see what I wrote about at the age of 10, even 13. And it is funny to think I’d forgotten my writing for a long time, during my university years. It all came back to me later on, as I started teaching and writing stories for my lessons. Once I had my first child, my urge to write again, just write, not for work, but to write the stories out of my head, became simply natural and a necessity. It only became stronger with my second child. Having children who are no fans of sleeping may have contributed – insomnia had me reading a lot and spurred The Threshold.

I have to say I was lucky, and still am, to have the support of my family, friends and colleagues. It was actually my teaching colleagues, both from the school where I teach English, and from an international teaching community (the wonderful people from esl.printables who participated in the Inner Giant), who pushed me into trying to publish. My husband, my best friend and my sister were the ones who gave me the final push when I was on the verge of giving up. They still do. And then things evolved.

Nowadays, in my life there is a group of likeminded authors I am happy to have met through some writer groups and am proud to call my friends. These people have raised the bar for me, challenged and taught me a lot, and are always there to give me an earbashing or pep-talk. You know who you are. Thank you all.

What’s your next project?

After having participated in the #Awethors’ anthologies and the RCAP Twisted Tales, I am looking forward to any future projects they dare to invite me for. They are all amazing, inspiring people with astounding amounts of energy and ideas, and a wonderful support network.

As for my own work, I am currently writing a light chicklit novel about a garrulous young lady looking for love in her daydreams. (Again, one of those who wouldn’t be quiet.) I am hoping to finish that by midsummer.
There are several children’s stories, a preteen fantasy novel, and a full-length adult novel I have written out, still cooling till I am ready to edit them. There is also an editing challenge an author friend has set for me, inviting me to work on her novel, which is almost finished. Blogging author interviews and book reviews has become a routine I enjoy, my own book promotional activities have become a constant struggle, but are vital.

My writing is (only) a passion. I teach full-time, which takes up a lot of my time and energy, so I write far less than I would like to. Still, there is a time and place for everything, and I am still learning.

Please share a little more of your write background.

My first story and poems were published years ago in an ESL charity book Teaching Children from the Heart. Sadly, the book is no longer available, as the publishing company went under amidst all the financial turmoil in the world. Inner Giant is an amazing anti-bullying e-book I collaborated on with artists and teachers from all over the world, as proofreader, contributor and even illustrator.

I have three children’s e-books available on major purchase sites, all fruit of my teaching experience, and two of the stories have been nominated for Best Indie Summer Award in the category of children’s books. Winky’s Colours, The Good Pirate and Mimi Finds Her Magic all have a positive educational message, with additional activities to help the children enjoy, and the adults read and engage children.

The Threshold, my adult novella, is available as e-book only, although I am working on a paperbook as well. It’s a moral parable with slight elements of horror and paranormal. It was actually the first book I wrote considering it writing, not teaching.

My story Passage is featured in the Awethology Light, and my poem The Christmas Surprise opens December Awethology Light. Active vs. Passive is featured in this amazing new collection of the TwisAwethology.Passage.Anitated Tales. Having collaborated on so many books with authors from around the world has been a huge honour and challenge.

Where can readers reach you?

As time-consuming and tasking as it can be, I try to be active on various social sites and groups, although I may not reply instantly. My links are listed below, so feel free to drop by and say hi. You may even stumble upon an interview with the authors from Twisted Tales, Joseph Mark Brewer included. Have fun reading and don’t forget to review books – your opinion counts.

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/author/anitakovacevic

FB BLOG – Anita’s Haven https://www.facebook.com/anitashaven

TWITTER https://twitter.com/Anitas_haven

LULU SPOTLIGHT http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/Anita_K

WORDPRESS https://anitashaven.wordpress.com/

GOODREADS  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/38410617-anita-kovacevic

PINTEREST https://www.pinterest.com/anitarobi/

INSTAGRAM @anitas.haven

 

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Stay tuned for more Meet the Author interviews. If you like what you read in Twisted Tales you’re invited to leave a review on Amazon. Thanks!

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake – and sign up for my monthly newsletter at josephmarkbrewer.com

Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – An interview with Jean Gill

To paraphrase Forrest Gump (and his mom): “twisted is as twisted does”- so grab your free copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s a collection of eclectic stories by authors from around the globe. Twisted Tales 15LitLiesEpicYarnsFINAL

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Jean Gill, author of The 13th Sign in Twisted Tales, for a chat about her story and her writing life.  Jean is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D750 and a man. Her claim to fame is that she was the first woman to be secondary Head Teacher in Carmarthenshire. She has published 18 books, and is mother or stepmother to five children, so life is hectic.

Your story ‘The 13th Sign’ appears in the Readers Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology Twisted Tales. What made you decide on that story?

I think ‘Twisted Tales’ will appeal to adventurous readers who want to be surprised and entertained so I submitted a story that I hope does both. Will a naïve but gutsy youngster complete his coming-of-age ritual and be given his rightful place in a parallel universe? When the youngster is the constellation Ophiuchus, and the twelve established zodiac signs are stacking the magical odds against him, nothing can be taken for granted.

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Jean Gill

I’ve always loved the idea that, astronomically speaking, there should be a thirteenth zodiac sign but astrologers didn’t like the number thirteen – or any change at all. My zodiac sign is in fact Ophiuchus the Serpent-bearer and 13 is of course my lucky number. My books are now published by my own Indie imprint ‘The 13th Sign.’

Comic fantasy gives endless opportunities to poke fun at the world we live in and the personalities of the various Zodiac Signs might remind you of people you know. My ambition with this story is to follow in the steps of the master, Terry Pratchett. As he said, ‘writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.’

Did you find writing a short story easier or harder to write than what you’ve written in the past?

I’ve written and published many short stories, and was even a double prize-winner one year with London Inc’ International Writing Competition. My collection ‘One Sixth of a Gill’, free to those who subscribe to my Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5 contains poetry and shorts ‘to fit everyone’ and I enjoy the freedom of experimenting. I was first published as a poet and I like breaking rules in my work.

I was once part of a performance group of three writers in Wales, The West of Whitland Poets, and my friend, a short story author, was asked, ‘Do you think you’ll ever manage to write a novel?’ The idea that start with short stories and you write novels when you grow up as a writer is daft. What I’m after is the perfect marriage between content and form; I have hundreds of ideas and some have to be poems; some short stories; some novels; and I’ve written plays too.

Who has been an important influence on your journey as a writer?

I’ve been published every which-way, traditional and self-published, and have learned from many writers and editors over the years. Influences have been bad as well as good and I have my share of horror stories which put me off writing – but I always carried on and I’m so glad I did. You never forget your first acceptance from a publisher. Mine was when Outposts Poetry Journal published my poem Note from Guinevere to Lancelot. As poetry publishers get thousands of submissions each week, this was a big deal. My first editor and publisher (Johnathon Clifford of The National Poetry Foundation) was exceptional; he was one of those rare editors who can put their finger on what is wrong in a line of poetry and suggest an improvement. He encouraged me but was also fierce in rejection so I learned the three important lessons for any writer, from him: my work is good, it needs to be edited and improved, and rejections happen – get over it.

What’s your next project?

I’m researching Book IV of my 12th century Troubadours Quartet, historical fiction that tells the adventures of my fictional couple, Dragonetz and Estela, in the context of real events and characters in 1150 -1154. I’m feeling the pressure now because Book 1 won the Global Ebook for best Historical fiction and Book 3 is shortlisted for the Wishing Shelf Awards – the last book has to be good!

Book1, Song at Dawn is free http://smarturl.it/dawnsong so you can visit 12th century Provence and see whether you enjoy ‘Game of Thrones with real history.

Please share a little more of your background as a writer.

My writing had to run alongside my career in education, and my family, until 2003 and I’ve now published 18 books, including three translations (from the French). I write in many different genres, from modern family sagas, and historical novels to dog stories, poetry and a cookbook.

I never found a traditional publisher who loved all my work and it is both time-consuming and depressing to start submitting work afresh each new book so self-publishing suits me down to the ground. I do use a professional editor and cover-designer.

Where can readers reach you?

I love hearing from readers and anyone who reviews one of my books can send me a dog photo, with brief description, to go in my Readers’ Dogs Hall of Fame . http://jeangill.com/dogs/

Contact jean.gill@wanadoo.fr

Sign up for Jean’s Newsletter http://eepurl.com/AGvy5blogger1 banner

IPPY Award for Best Author Website www.jeangill.com

Blog www.jeangill.blogspot.com

Twitter  https://twitter.com/writerjeangill

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Stay tuned for more Meet the Author interviews. If you like what you read in Twisted Tales you’re invited to leave a review on Amazon. Thanks!

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Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake – and sign up for my monthly newsletter at josephmarkbrewer.com

Lions and Tigers and Queries, Oh My!

Well, I’ve stepped into the breach. Manuscript finished, edited, polished.

Now the hard part. The dreaded part. The part that sends most new writers back home to momma.

Sending out the query letters.

When I looked up query in the dictionary, I fully expected to see some variation of the definition of masochism. Doesn’t it feel like we’re being punished for something we love?

But no, query has honorable roots, going back to Latin: “Quaerere — to ask.”

Ask.

So my query letter is merely asking a question.

What a loaded question.

“Dear Agent: Will you please take an interest in something I’ve been working on for god-knows how many years, in the hope that someday before I die I will see my words between the covers of a book, with my name on the front, and whatever title some editor dreams up?”

If only I could send out such a letter.

As a friend of mine would say, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

I’ve sent out queries before, lots of times, with no takers. And looking back, I didn’t deserve any. The letters weren’t very polished, and the manuscripts were mediocre.

Now I suppose I’ll find out if I’ve improved any.

But that raises the big question in publishing these days, doesn’t it? Does my success or failure as a writer depend on the say-so of literary agents? We all know the publishing world’s pecking order and “business model” and sure, agents are important.

But times have changed.

I don’t need to list the reasons why here. The point is, with today’s social media and electronic publishing, an unpublished author has many more options than ever before. Going through the query process is only one devilish route to publishing success.

Perhaps my future self will be an independent author. That does not change the fact that I think writing a good query letter and asking for an agent to become a partner in a published venture is a bad way to go. It’s an important one.

 

How Music Can Make You a Better Writer

How can music make you a better writer? Before I began writing and editing for a living, I was a music student studying voice and composition. In no way was I a musician, and after a year I dropped the scholarship. But later, when I began learning how to write, the theory and composition classes I took helped me understand that story structure is a lot like musical structure. Melody, harmony, rhythm — it all can be applied to writing.

Think about a favorite piece of music. A short story is like a track off a CD. A novel is like a symphony or concerto, and its chapters the movements. Like all good stories, music has central characters (the theme), multilayered conflict (melody, harmony, point, counterpoint); changes in mood (loud passages, quiet moments, instrumental solos),  and enough peaks and valleys to take the listener on an entertaining ride. One of the reasons why Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and it’s glorious finale “Ode to Joy” is so popular is that the piece has just about everything a good novel has: a strong central theme, dramatic flourishes, appealing solos, changes in mood, and a strong finish. If you go back and begin reading your chapters, can you hear the music? Can you think of it as a song?

What if you don’t know a symphony from a telephone book? Tell the story in terms of pop music. All the same elements are there. A pop or country song’s standard format is  verse, bridge, chorus. The theme of the story and the story itself is in the verses; the chorus repeats the theme, and the bridge — often the best part — can provide all types of opportunities for twist or a surprise ending.  Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back (or never sees her again): it’s the stuff of literature — and the Billboard Top 100.

If all your usual tricks don’t seem to be sparking your imagination, trying thinking of your  story as a song.  Maybe the music will help you add another dimension to your writing.

Write That Query Letter

Confession: I’ve been writing a lot for a long time. Throwing ideas on paper, shaping them into a story, seeing what I liked, throwing away what I didn’t. Thousands of pages over many years. Just one big brain dump after another.

Result: No focus. A story morphing into one thing, then another. A short story collection with whiskers. Novels that deservedly sit hidden in a drawer.

This week I read again Chuck Wendig’s 25 Ways to Plot, Plan and Prep Your Story. In the midst of his entertaining verbal gymnastics I found the nugget I could have used 25 years ago.

“Synopsis First

You might think to write your query letter, treatment or synopsis last. Bzzt. Wrong move, donkeyface. Write it up front. It’s not etched in stone, but it’ll give you a good idea of how to stay on target with this story.”

So did I ever write an outline? Sometimes. Did I ever write a query letter? Occasionally. (I have sent out some stuff. And all rejected, deservedly so.)

And then came my most recent project. It’s in it’s final phases, synopsis written, humongous query letter efforts, and what I discovered is: Chuck’s right. Writing the synpsis and query letter last is a wrong move. I’m a donkeyface.

Feedback on the query letter for my WIP helped me focus on what the essence of the story was. Sure, the story is a lot of things, a lot of ins and outs, as The Dude would say, but it does have one central story. And it took rewriting the query letter a zillion times to find it.

So, listen to Chuck. (This Chuck, not the other one, unless you want to.) Before you finish the mind dump, write an outline, synopsis, query letter.  Focus. It’ll save you a lot of time. And effort.

See ya next week.

Imagine If You Can

“And then what happened?”

While talking to a friend who is writing a screenplay about a controversial current topic, he said he did not want to research the subject online or interview people who personally experienced what he is writing about. Astonished at this statement, I asked why, and he said he did not want to write anything biographical.

I think this type of thinking comes from the academic writing and journalism he has done in the past. In his mind, hearing about someone’s experience and then writing about it is simply biography, or worse, reporting. So I said,  “Imagine you’re in a bar talking to five World War II veterans who are sharing their war experiences. If you write what they’ve said, quoted them and attributed what they said, it would be reporting. But if you listen to what they said, then rewrote it in you own words, combing the experiences, changing the number of people. re-imagining what they told you in different contexts, all with the purpose of telling a story, then it is fiction.”

He seemed to grasp the idea, but I don’t know that he was convinced. He’s a natural researcher, and a great conversationalist, but something always seems to prevent him from putting those words on paper.

One project he had been toying with for years is telling a bit of what happened during the Mexican-American war, and I know the reason he has done nothing more than write note cards for the first draft is that he cannot not stop thinking of it as a scholarly work rather than any war story told by soldiers since the beginning of time.

Every person I know who has trouble getting started with a story has not gotten past the reality that all you’re doing is telling your best friend something that happened.

That’s all.

Why write?

Consider today’s blog as a first cousin to the Quick Hits writing tips. In previous posts, I said that all writing can be boiled down into Who What When Where and Why. Today I’d like to talk about Why.

As in Why write? Why write about _____________? Why do you spend all your free time neglecting friends and family and having a life so you can scribble a few sentences on a notepad or stay up all night pounding out sentences as if you life depended on it.

Why indeed.

Anyone can give you a reason for writing: convey and idea. Tell a story. Spread the news.
Writers suffer a more debilitating affliction, they write as if their soul will expire if they  don’t.

See, people who write do it whether they like it or not. They cannot help themselves. They pick up a pencil and write a story as soon as they’ve read their first book. They see how it’s done and want to to do. Some hear a poem and know they’ve heard something that touches their soul, and just know they have to do the same thing in order to live. Some hear the stories of their ancestors and are convinced that recording them is an act of precious preservation.

For me, writing began when I read newspapers and then news magazines, and realized I was learning about things going on on the far side of the world. It put the idea in my head that I could travel and tell a story for people who may never have been where I’ve been. When I was older and I enlisted in the Navy as a journalist, I traveled to the far side of the world, and it captured my imagination like nothing else. Which is why I’ve been writing stories about Japan for so many years, stories that over time have been broken up into little pieces and rearranged into other stories.

One of the very first experiences I had in Japan, trying to have as ordinary a day as possible in the midst of everything that was so new and different,  I went to a park, sat on a bench, and watched the world around me. I saw the pigeons swoop and sway and then land on the vast plaza, the moms and dads and babies in strollers and young people stealing intimate moments. Then I saw a grandfather playing with a granddaughter, a child no more than 2  years old, the old man grinning, clapping, talking in a sing-song voice, the little girl scampering to and fro, first to a pigeon that landed oh so close, then back to the grandfather when the bird suddenly took flight, laughing brightly.

“This could be anywhere,” I thought. And then I realized I could write a story placed in Japan, about the people I met and lived with: servicemen, Japanese guys and gals, government officials, everyday folk. I decided to use my expat experience as the basis for tell a story about right and wrong, how the unforeseen and the accidental can change the story of person’s life.

I wrote many different versions of a story I had in my head until the cast of characters came out in such a way that a detective story emerged, and that’s how I came to write my work in progress Be Careful What You Ask For. It’s the first of series of novels about a police inspector who becomes a private investigator in retirement, but never seems to escape the cast of characters infiltrating his life: cops, gangsters, and a wealthy industrialist who seems to be his only client.

Why do I write? To tell these stories.

Why do you write?