Welcome!

This blog or hangout is both a continuation and archive of select features that I first originated on Facebook. I hope to continue TULO TUESDAY and WRITING WEDNESDAY here (maybe not every week, however) as well as perhaps add photos of Japanese-style gardens I’ve visited throughout the United States. Thanks for stopping by!

 

How to Sell Diverse Books

With the Oscar nominations and in our mystery genre, the Edgar announcement to come in a few days, observers are fixated on awards. But the older I get in the publishing industry, the more I’ve become fixated on sales. There have been campaigns notably in the children’s literature to publish diverse books. Admittedly, if there are no diverse books to be had, those stories cannot reach readers. But releasing them is half the battle. How do you sell them? As I cut my professional teeth at a Japanese American newspaper which catered to a niche audience, I’ve learned that you cannot merely use tactics employed by the mainstream and think that they will work for every book or movie, especially a diverse one. Of course, you need mainstream buy-in for a creative work to be a commercial success. But for a book with American non-white characters to truly have legs, I believe that you need to create different “interest tornados,” starting with the very community you write about. For my debut Mas Arai mystery, I advocated that my publisher, Random House, place an ad in the newspaper that I worked at, The Rafu Shimpo. They did so, securing a quarter-page space that probably would have gotten a few inches in the Los Angeles Times for the same price. I gave the same paper a first-chapter sneak-peek in its holiday issue and held my launch party at the Japanese American National Museum instead of a bookstore. A friend who used to … Read more

Chicago Historical Mystery to Be Published by Soho Crime in 2021

The book contract is signed, so the official announcement is out: CLARK & DIVISION, my historical mystery set in 1944 Chicago, will be released by Soho Crime next year. Thrilled! I’m still working on the novel, so stay tuned for posts regarding research. If you subscribed to my newsletter, you have more details. Just go to my website’s home page and click on “Join E-mail List.”

Weight Loss and Writing

Writing is not conducive to weight loss. In fact, being such a sedentary active, often fueled by one too many jalapeño potato chip, See’s molasses chip or bottle of sweet tea, it can lead to the weight gain. I’ve always been an active person–in the past, I’ve run in half-marathons or played in basketball leagues. And now with Tulo, the hyper Jack Russell, regular dog walks as well as strength training have become my regular routine. But that hasn’t prevented extra pounds from accumulating around my middle. I called it natural middle-age weight gain and just acquired more tunics from Japan. I was content with my roly-poly state, but there’s something in my family history that I can’t ignore. We’ve been hit hard by the “C” word, cancer. My three grandparents had cancer; my father, stomach; and my mother, ovarian. Mom has beat the odds and is currently as healthy as she can be at 83 years of age. The rest succumbed to the disease. My gynecologist has told me that losing just 10 pounds will decrease my chances of getting several different kinds of cancer. That was finally the incentive that I needed. I reluctantly joined the Kaiser Healthy Balance program, which is similar to Weight Watchers in that there are weekly weigh-ins and group discussions. I really didn’t want to participate in these one-and-a-half hour sessions, once a week for 16 weeks. (I’m currently in week seven.) Instead of being a discouraging experience, I discovered a group of … Read more

Reassessing Crap

In one of my favorite writing books, BIRD BY BIRD, Anne Lamott discusses writing “shitty first drafts.” It’s a necessary evil for writers and sometimes I forget to extend that truth to my own work. On Christmas of all days, I printed out my work in progress, got comfortable on our Costco couch and started reading. By the end of my draft I determined that it was crap. I couldn’t believe that I had been so excited about what I had been creating–the foundation seemed strong, the structure dependable, the characters lively and authentic. Then why did my story seem to fall apart in certain key moments? I took a break, ate Chinese food with the extended family while also playing some rounds of Switch video games with my 9-year-old nephew (soundly beaten every time) and then returned back to the manuscript. I figured out the err of my ways. First of all, with the holiday busyness, I had failed to totally immerse myself in my writing. I didn’t take deep dives and fail to stay underwater. Instead I was dogpaddling in shallow waters so that I could keep an eye on what was happening around me. As a result, I had just taken sections that I had written earlier in my outline and stuck them where I thought they had belonged. As a result, it was not seamless. The stitching was crude and the fabric totally wrong. Why was I having my characters say things that they never would … Read more

Sukiyaki Christmas

(Written in December 2012) When my mother was in her twenties, she had sukiyaki parties with her friends in Hiroshima.  Instead of bring your own booze, it was bring your own extra ingredient.  To complement the sliced beef, it could be cubed blocks of tofu, a tangle of graykonnyakunoodles, sliced napa cabbage or the Wonder Bread of noodles, white pillowy udon. It was a risk, you see, as no one would consult with one another.  So you might end up with a stew of beef and only konnyaku, made from the devil’s tongue root, which in its plant form looks positively phallic.  That was the fun of it.  Not knowing what might result at these sukiyaki get-togethers. As my mother tells us this, the steam from the sukiyaki fogs her bifocals.  Our small family is gathered around the electric pan this past Christmas Eve.  There’s no red and green Christmas tablecloth, no holy candles. Dad stays at the table for only a few minutes.  His emaciated body in his loose pajamas, he sits bent over a bowl.  He is only able to manage a teacup’s worth of rice, meat and sauce, if even that.  He returns to bed.  Our youngest at the table, Rowan, only two, smiles widely, his mouth full of a mash of rice and meat.  He is oblivious that life is literally seeping out of our family circle. *** Christmas for me always feels a little odd, like putting on a nice piece of clothing that doesn’t … Read more

My Upcoming Year of the Three Cs

I’m already anticipating 2020 as my year of the three Cs: cultivation, creativity and contemplation.

Other than being a part of a short story anthology, I won’t have any new books published. Although I’ll still be attending three mystery conventions–two in my home state of California, I won’t be on that hamster wheel of a self-financed book tour. Both my husband and dog will be very happy.

I’ll be spending a big chunk of my time at the living room table, typing away on my laptop, traveling in my mind to 1944 Chicago and contemporary Kaua’i. And while I look forward to deep and sustained times of story cultivation, I know that I also need to be careful not to get into trouble on various social media platforms, the freelance writer’s water cooler. Here’s where the contemplation comes in.

It doesn’t surprise me that mindfulness and meditation have been incorporated in many writer retreats and even healthcare programs. We’re not going to last long relying only on our limited physical bodies to carry us through these uncertain times. So I’m going to attempt to let go more, even perhaps release my identity as writer. I’ll still be writing but I’m going to check my motivations for my actions more. I want to get used to being on the sidelines, listening and observing.