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Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Time To Buy Is Now

With December upon us, there is still time to get that perfect gift you're looking for. During the entire month of December the ebook version of my fantasy novel Adventure Hunters: Similitude will be on sale for 99cents. The print version is discounted to 7.99 Available through Amazon, Smashwords, and other ebook outlets, this is a great gift for the fantasy reader in your life.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Virtual Reading Shelf

Here is my virtual reading shelf. It doesn't cover every book I've read recently, I did read a few hardcopy books. I mostly read ebooks and I prefer doing them on iDevices using iBooks. I can't stand the Kindle app. It's ugly and awkward to use. I thought you might like a look into my reading habits.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Has It Been That Long?

I can't believe I have been away from this blog for almost a year. A lot has been happening over the last (almost) year and I won't bog you down with the details. The highlights are that I moved to a new town, Yanai, which is famous for its Edo-period whitewall buildings and goldfish. Yoko and I are living with her parents. Living with the in-laws has been a never-ending adjustment.

I have a new job at the Marine base in Iwakuni. I have been there since August 2014. It's not a bad job and I get American food, which I really miss.

I AM still writing, although at a glacier pace. The Super School Uniform has a title change to Zero Sum Game. The biggest holdup on this novel has been finding the right cover art to match it. I decided to go with a light novel/manga-style cover. It hasn't been the problem of finding an artist, it's that there are too many artists out there. Wading through them has been a chore. I am still hoping to publish it by the end of the year but it is looking less and less likely. But when I finally do publish it, I hope you agree the wait will be worth it.

After eight years in Japan, I finally have a car. I got it last week and am slowly adjusting to driving.

That's about all that has been going on. I know it doesn't sound like much but to be honest this blog has sort of slipped my mind. I will endeavor to have more regular updates.

Retro Street in Yanai

Friday, November 07, 2014

Halloween 2014 Part 2

Last post, I talked about my Halloween plans. How did the actual day go? Pretty good. I got a lot of compliments on my Star Trek uniform. Quite a few LLAP salutes and a few "It's a good thing you didn't wear a red shirt" comments, as well. It seems quite a few people on base are Star Trek fans, or at least know of it. A few people asked me from which Star Trek it was from, and I proudly said Star Trek Into Darkness. Say what you want, I love that movie.

As for the costume itself, I love it. The tunic is more green than I expected, but I know it is dyed to the actual colors used by the film crew and actors. Studio lights and camera filters can change colors, so the uniform appears much more gold on screen. It fit almost perfectly, the arms were just a tad long but it was perfect around the chest. The Khan undershirt (a black tunic with a black-filled delta shield on it) fit perfectly out of the box and I will most likely wear it as a regular undershirt. The command badge from QMX is excellent. But I'm curious about one thing: if their TNG and DS9 badges can have magnetic backs that don't cause holes in the fabric, why can't their Into Darkness line of badges do as well? I'm glad the badges use two pins to secure it, but I hate putting holes in my tunic. Those quibbles aside, the tunic is perfect. This is my first full tunic from Anovos, a company I love and I have bought many of their side products. Their attention to detail and quality on these products is outstanding and worth the price. This is the first uniform I bought from them and I'm glad I did.

Speaking of, I have fulfilled a dream of mine. I have always wanted a screen accurate high quality Star Trek uniform. I always thought my uniform would be the Monster maroon from Star Trek II-VI. Maybe a TNG suit. But with this tunic, I have gotten what I wanted. The last thing needed is to buy the pants, but honestly, a pair of black slacks (which is what I used for Halloween) is not much different. The other uniform I would like to get is the TNG uniform used in First Contact and Nemesis.

Back to Halloween. While I was biking to work, wearing my tunic underneath my jacket, I was nervous. I thought maybe wearing costumes to work was an elaborate prank on me by the staff. Yes, I am that paranoid. But when I saw a few fellow staffers in costume, I felt better. When the first customers saw me, I got nervous again. Maybe wearing this wasn't a good idea, I thought. Besides, the majority of the staff weren't in costume and none of our customers were either, despite this being Halloween. I thought at least some of the students from school would come to the store in costume but none did. The longer I wore it, however, and the more compliments I got, the more confident I became. Who cares? It's Halloween and I'm a Trekker, I thought. My nervous returned went I had to leave my work building for lunch, but I remained confident.

That taught me a bit of a lesson. Cosplayers have to be confident. You really put yourself out there with the quality of your costume and, to a bigger part, your costume of choice. You are telling the world which characters you love, and by association, the traits and charateristics they embody. I like Kirk. I wish I had his courage and ingenuity. And his confidence. But for a few hours on Halloween, I had a little more than usual.

P.S. I completely forgot to mention that I took second place at the employee costume contest at work!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Halloween 2014

Kirk is back on! It seems I will indeed be getting my Captain Kirk Star Trek Into Darkness tunic after all. There is a bit of a story behind it, so here goes.

After learning that we can wear a Halloween costume to work on that day, I thought it might be fun. My first instinct was to go as Khan from Star Trek Into Darkness. The shirt was the cheapest thing from Anovos, plus it seemed cool for everyday wear, nothing too signifying that it was Trek. But two things made me change my mind. First off, I can't pull off Benedict Cumberbatch's British accent, and second was that most people wouldn't know who I was. Just a guy in a black shirt and black pants. So I decided to go with Chris Pine's Kirk, although I'm not dying my hair blonde. But the price of the tunic was a bit much, and I spent all day going back and forth on it. Part of me really wanted it, but another part wondered how much I would really use it. There was Halloween this year, but I'm also planning a trip to America next year to meet members of the 1701st Fleet. I'm pretty sure I can wear it there. And I'll likely wear it to the premiere of Star Trek XIII in 2016. Plus at home to geek out when I watch Trek. So, yeah, it will be more than a one-time wear. That justified me getting it. I got home, went to the website and...discovered it didn't have my size, which is small. While I had been browsing the site during lunch, I never really looked at the sizes. But now, at home, I realized the medium would be too big. After psyching myself up all day, I couldn't buy it.

But Anovos has two ways to order depending on which link you click. You can order via the individual product page, or just go to the page listing their Star Trek stuff and order via drop down menus. I discovered that the individual product page for Kirk's tunic stated that small was sold out. But the drop down menus on the Star Trek products link had small as availible. Not sure what was going on, I left a message on their Facebook page about the discrepency and went to bed.

The next morning before work, being the OCD guy I am, I checked the Kirk tunic again. No small, still the ordering discrepency. I didn't want to order via the drop down menu and risk the size being backordered and not having it arrive in time for Halloween. Spock's tunic was sold out of small as well. That left Scotty. I like him, and the Simon Pegg version of him is growing on me. I quite didn't want to order a red shirt, for fear of all the 'Red Shirt' jokes out there, but at this point the bug to get an authentic Trek costume had gotten hold. I ordered the Scotty tunic, the Khan undershirt (which was availible in small), and the engineering badge. I went through the whole process, clicked the button, and bought the items. I received my order confirmation email.

About half an hour later, I received another email from Anovos. This person said he had seen my post on their Facebook Page, and that they had just received a shipment of Kirk small tunics in that morning. That was the reason for discrepency on the website. He then stated that, although I had ordered Scotty, he would be willing to switch out the tunic and badge for Kirk's, complete with command badge, which by the way, the site said only three remained. I was very surprised by this and immediately emailed him back, saying I would appreciate it if he did. He was doing this because this is what I had originally wanted. I thought this was great of Anovos. I had already ordered and paid for my Scotty set. They could have simply said to themselves, "Tough luck, he should have waited. He already ordered." But they didn't. They went out of their way to make sure I had gotten what I had originally wanted. But the drama doesn't quite end there.

Tuesday morning my time, I asked a Marine how long it takes for packages to ship to Iwakuni base. I am shipping my Kirk tunic there because it was much cheaper than sending it to my Japanese address: $12 versus $38. He said about a month or two. What?! That is way past Halloween, the prime time to wear it. Panicked, I emailed Anovos for an estimated delivery date while I searched the FAQs on USPS about military mail. I discovered that Parcel Post Military takes 30-45 days, but Priority Mail Military takes about a week. Anovos sends via Priority. And I received an email this morning saying the estimated delivery date is around October 20. In plenty of time for Halloween.

I now have a costume to wear to work on Halloween day (I know I'm working that day) and an authentic high quality Trek costume, which I have always wanted. I really appreciate Anovos for going that extra step to ensure their customer was happy. As a sales associate, I know customers aren't always easy, but this company helped me out.

As a side note, I'm more excited about this Halloween than usual. A lot of it probably has to do with the tunic I'm getting, but working on the base, it is nice to see the Halloween culture again. It is not really celebrated here in Japan, although a few restaurant chains will run Halloween-themed foods. Yoko and I always give Halloween candy to the kids on our floor. This year, along with them, we gave bags of candy to her basketball club girls as well. They won a big game, and they and their parents had a dinner party to celebrate. Whenever we give candy, I try to find candy they don't have in Japan. Since this is Halloween, I found gummy candy in the shape of an eyeball, brain, severed fingers, ears, and feet. The taste is normal gummy candy but the look is something they don't have at all here in Japan. I hope they enjoy it.

How about my readers? What are your Halloween plans?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: From The Magical Mind Of Mindy Munson by Nikki Bennett

Official synopsis from Firedrake Books: "Every house has a history. This House has a mystery. When the orphaned Munson kids move with their aunt to The House, Mindy Munson discovers strange creatures living there already. Ghosts. Dragons. Leprechauns. And a scary Thing lurking in the basement. Mindy’s older sister Susie is determined to find out where these creatures came from and why they’re living in the Munson’s house. With the help of the next-door neighbors and an old lady named Mrs. Wemberley, Susie, Mindy and their brothers unravel The House’s amazing secrets. And along the way, they discover some incredible secrets about themselves.

I will say, this isnt a book I would normally read. But Im glad I did. As I went along the largely plot-less novel, it reminded me of something I had watched, but it took a moment to remember what it was. Then it hit me: My Neighbor Totoro. Like that famous and lovable film, this book is a celebration of being a kid. These vignettes, as the kids investigate the unnatural things in their home, perfectly capture the wonder and innocence of children:from being amazed at the view from atop a tree to being scared of spiders under the bed to wondering just how old their old lady babysitter is. Bennett had a knack for kids and she perfectly captured their dialogue and nuances, I could hear kids talking like this.

While the book is almost a series of vignettes, there is a through line, the continuing problem of Susie trying to come with terms about her parents’s death. It doesn’t overshadow the story nor make it dark, but I liked that the thread was continually picked up and tied into the main narrative. I feel the book would have been lessened without having it in there, as characters in most stories need to grow, as these kids do.

This is a quick read for adults but will be quite enjoyable for younger readers, or a great bedtime story. All in all, a magical book.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Voice Of The Mirror by John Paul Catton

Voice Of The Mirror is the second volume in the Sword, Mirror, Jewel trilogy. This time traveling adventure picks up shortly after the events of the first book. Here is the official synopsis from Excalibur Books: "Japanese-American teenager Reiko Bergman is hoping to get back to a normal life, after helping defeat the alien Kagetori in their attempt to steal one of the mysterious and unbelievably powerful Imperial Treasures of Japan.

Her hopes are dashed when the Nine Star Division, the branch of Japan’s police force that deals with otherwordly threats to the nation, inform Reiko she is involved in a Kagetori threat to sieze the second Imperial Treasure – the mystic mirror known as the Yata no Kagami. Not only that, Reiko learns of a secret two-hundred-year-old scroll relating the history of the mirror and its guardian; the half-Japanese warrior and shamaness known as … Reiko Bergman.

In a journey into the past to try to save the future, Reiko will experience mind-bending battles fighting the Kagetori alongside mythological creatures such as Tengu and Kitsune, but the strangest ally of all will be … herself.”

I really enjoyed the first volume and looked forward to this new entry. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The book flips back and forth in time between Reiko Bergman in present day Tokyo and Reiko Furukawa of Edo-era Tokyo. Catton handled this quite well, making each chapter a separate point in time, and also keeping the same first-person POV in each chapter. Although both Reikos are the same person, each one has a distinct style of thinking and talking and this is reflected in the way Catton writes the chapters.

Even when the mirror characters from the two time periods meet near the end of the book, Catton deftly identifies each one and the reader is not left wondering which time-period version is talking. it could have been potentially confusing but I was able to keep track of everyone easily. Not a mean feat in a time-traveling story without strong visual cues such as those in movies.

The story is a little slow paced, mostly in Furukawa’s chapters. Things come together, however, near the end of the book and much of the earlier, slow-paced scenes make more sense. I would have liked to have seen more Ki usage from Reiko, since her and her friends basically became warriors at the end of Sword, perhaps a little more school life scenes as well. While Bergman is the main character, it feels a bit more like Furukawa’s book. I also wish Catton had described the established characters again; I had forgotten what they looked like.

The time travel and alternate worlds of the story are well done and interesting. Catton is also good at introducing bits of Japanese culture and mythology without slowing the story down or inserting too much of the author’s voice. The characters are well-crafted, especially a well-known Japanese artist (I don’t want to spoil the surprise) and the SF elements are great.

The trilogy so far feels very much like a manga or anime and is great at introducing Japanese culture to beginners. If you enjoyed the first book, this one is worth a read. It ups the stakes (and character count) and I wonder how the author will pull all these seemingly disparate elements together in the final book.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy Geekness Day!

July 13th is Embrace Your Geekness Day. As DaysOfTheYear.com states: "In an age of social media, mobile technology and gaming consoles, it’s impossible to avoid being just a little bit geeky. Don’t fight it; jump head first into Embrance Your Geekness Day and show the world how intelligent, technically savvy, and clever you really are!” I was invited by Sam Bowling of SingleHop.com to write a special blog post celebrating this great day.

Would I consider myself a geek? Yes I would. And I believe many people are geeks; they just don’t realize it or they refuse to call themselves that. What is a geek? What is a nerd? Are they the same? I think there is a difference, but the line between them is getting blurred. In my mind, a geek is someone who loves a thing, no matter what it is, with great passion. They are crazy about a show, or a comic, or a video game; something that catches their interest and hearts. Nerds, while also passionate, tend to be into ideas and practical or theoretical studies. Quantum mechanics, time travel. biology, computer programming, and the like. This article from the UK takes an interesting view. Again, it is my personal opinion, but I agree with the article: geeks love things and nerds love ideas. But the two terms are becoming intertwined, and maybe in a few years there will be no difference.

What makes me a geek? I’m a collector. I don’t have many interests, but what I am interested in, I’m deeply into. I love learning all about it. And if it has merchandise…my wallet better watch out. I love getting memorabilia and goods from some of my favorite TV shows and movies; which include Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Castle, Sherlock, superheroes, and more. I love buying useful items that resemble things from these shows or are products from the show. I have a pen that resembles the Tenth Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, as well as replica Triad playing cards from BSG.

I believe one reason geeks love collecting things is the same reason sports fan collect sports stuff: it connects us with that reality and reminds us of the good times, even when we aren’t watching our favorite program or reading our favorite books. People love stories, and the genres of science fiction and fantasy offer fantastic other worlds to visit. And geeks want to hold on to those stories, those characters, just a little longer after the story ends. When a San Francisco 49ers fan is wearing a team jersey as he walks down the street, he is bringing a bit of the team with him. Their victories and defeats are there. It’s the same with writing with a sonic screwdriver pen or using a pizza cutter shaped like the Enterprise: we are carrying those stories of heroes, villains, love, and lost with us.

But for some reason, it is much more acceptable to wear a team jersey than it is a Starfleet uniform. Geeks and nerds are made fun of for their interests. But we shouldn’t. We have every right to proudly display our geekiness, just as every sports fan as their right to show their team spirit. But, as LeVar Burton always said on Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it. Below are three of my favorite quotes about nerds, geeks, and our beloved but misunderstood culture.

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” - Simon Pegg

I believe that actor Will Wheaton described it best in a YouTube video that was filmed during one of his convention appearances. A female fan had recently had a baby and asked him to explain why it was so great to be a nerd. His answer was epic. "My name is Wil Wheaton. It’s 2013. And you’ve just recently joined us on planet Earth. So welcome. I’m an actor. I’m a writer. And I’m a dad. Your mother asked me to tell you why it’s awesome to be a nerd. That’s an easy thing for me to do because I am a nerd.

I don’t know what the world is going to be like by the time you understand this. I don’t what it’s going to mean to be a nerd when you are a young women. For me, when I was growing up, being a nerd meant that I liked things that were a little weird. That took a lot of effort to appreciate and understand. It meant that I loved science, and that I loved playing board games, and reading books, and really understanding what went on in the world instead of just riding the planet through space.

When I was a little boy, people really teased us about that, and made us feel like there was something wrong with us for loving those things. Now that I’m an adult, I’m kind of a professional nerd, and the world has changed a lot. I think a lot of us have realized that being a nerd … it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.

So, there’s going to be a thing in your life that you love. I don’t know what that’s going to be … and it doesn’t matter what it is. The way you love that, and the way that you find other people who love it the way you do is what makes you a nerd. The defining characteristic of [being a nerd] is that we love things. Some of us love Firefly and some of us love Game Of Thrones, or Star Trek, or Star Wars, or anime, or games, or fantasy, or science fiction. Some of us love completely different things. But we all love those things SO much that we travel for thousands of miles … we come from all over the world, so that we can be around people who love the things the way that we love them.

That’s why being a nerd is awesome. And don’t let anyone tell you that that thing that you love is a thing that you can’t love. Don’t anyone ever tell you that you can’t love that, that’s for boys … you find the things that you love, and you love them the most that you can.

And listen: This is really important. I want you to be honest, honorable, kind. I want you to work hard. Because everything worth doing is hard. And I want you to be awesome, and I will do my very best to leave you a planet that you can still live on."

And those parts about being teased for being nerdy or that you shouldn’t like the things you do… Doctor Who actor John Barrowman has a great response to that as well. At a convention, during the Q and A session, a fan began her question with, “I’m sorry for being such a nerd...” He interrupted her and said: “Don’t ever apologize for being a nerd. Not here and not on the outside. Don’t ever apologize for being a nerd because the non-nerds never apologize for being dickheads.”

Being a nerd or a geek is about wholeheartedly embracing what you love and not having to apologize for it.

photo credit: whatmattdoes via photopin cc

Monday, July 07, 2014

Doctor Who: Fantastic Timey-Wimey Adventure

I don't have many interests. But what I do get interested in, I often get deeply into. My music tastes, for example, usually consist of Hello! Project, Jim Steinman songs, and soundtracks. I'm a Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver reader, although I occasionally read other authors. But it takes me a while to get into things. It's like my subconsconcious knows that, if it get interested in something, I'm really going to get into it, so it is picky. Because of this, I often enjoy shows and movies long after they are popular or have been around several years. I may have heard of them or been aware of them, but never really ventured into their territory.

That was the case with Doctor Who.

I first became aware of the show in my childhood, via the Intergalactic Trading Company catalogs. I used to scrounge through them, looking at the Star Trek merchandise I couldn't afford. They offered goods from all different SF shows in the early and mid 80s and I saw stuff from Doctor Who. It never caught my interest but I became aware of the name.

Fast forward to the present day. I'm a SF fan, my interests have broadened somewhat. I know enough about the Doctor to know he is a time traveling alien in a blue police call box. What? I'll pass, thank you. Give me the Enterprise any day. But after Star Trek had ended and I finished the reimagined Battlestar Galactica (I love that series) I wanted to try something different. I had heard the hoopla about Doctor Who returning to TV after a long hiatus. I knew that Stephen Moffat, the show runner and writer for another series I love, Sherlock, had worked on it. Plus, Christopher Eccelston, who I knew from the Nicolas Cage movie Gone In 60 Seconds and as Destro from G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, starred in the first series. I like him and decided to give the show a shot.

I'm so happy I did.

It took a while to get into it. Here was the Doctor and Rose traveling billions of years in the future, witnessing the end of the Earth as the sun expanded. All that time and these spaceships have pipes billowing out steam? Where were the transporters and faster-than-light travel and stuff? Why did some aliens look like walking trees? Those first few episodes were rough, and I had to get used to the rules of this TV show, how its universe operated. And after I did, and accepted that this was how things operated on this show, I really began to enjoy it. If you want to watch the show, stick with the first series. It gets better.

I knew Eccelston left after only one series (each season is called a series and only lasts around 13-14 episodes) and I was sad to see him go. But David Tennant blew me away. He is by and large my favorite Doctor. The Doctor is a Time Lord who can regenerate after the end of his current life cycle. This is an interesting aspect that was written into the show after the First Doctor, William Hartnell, left the show but the producers wanted to keep it running. Instead of simply recasting the main character (as in Bewitched) they wrote in a narrative explanation. This regeneration process allows a completely new actor to be in the role yet they are all the same character. The writers were brilliant again in that each regeneration caused a personality change as well. The Doctor is still the Doctor, but each version allows a different side of him to come out. This give the writers freedom to explore the character and let the actors give their own spin on it. Each Doctor, by a combination of the writing and acting, is unique, and each fan has their own favorite.

The new series, which began in 2005, is split (by fans) into the Russell T. Davies era and the Stephen Moffat era. Davies was responsible for bringing the show back on the air. His tenure was focused more on Earth and Earth-based stories and a positive outlook on humanity. While there were some so-so episodes, and not many overarching plots, there were many standout episodes (Blink and Midnight being two of my favorites). After series 3, Davies left as executive producer and Moffat took over. I’d say his tenure is characterized by more SF elements and storytelling and much more interrelated overarching plots and recurring characters. But I would have to criticize that there weren’t that many standout singular episodes that I can recall. Moffat and Davies are wonderful writers, both had vivid imaginations. I like Moffat a lot, and many of his episodes will scare you.

This show is hard to describe to non-fans, but the longer you watch it, the more awesome this show becomes. Whovians (the term for Doctor Who fans) are a dedicated lot and I’m proud to count myself among them. If you have ever thought of giving this show a try, start with series one and stick with it. You’ll get hooked.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Sunday, Yoko and I went to a ukiyo-e exhibit at the Yamaguchi Museum of Art in Yamaguchi City. It was amazing to see the original works of pictures I have only seen in prints. I couldn’t believe that some of these were more than 300 years old.

Ukiyo-e means ‘pictures of the floating world’ and became popular in the 17th century. They aren’t drawings or traditional paintings, they are woodblock prints. Three people were often involved in the process: the artist who designed the print, the woodcutter who craved the wood, and the painter who inked and pressed the blocks onto paper. The most famous ukiyo-e print is Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai. I was delighted that I could see the actual original and not a reproduction.

These prints of the 17th century were aimed at the merchant class, who were experiencing great growth due to the Edo period’s rising economy. Common themes were of travel and scenery, beautiful women, plants and animals, and famous actors and sumo wrestlers. The actor and sumo wrestlers pictures were interesting, in that they are basically ancient versions of today’s pop star posters and trading cards. A ukiyo-e depicting famous actors in a play is like today’s movie posters.

There were many different styles represented. Some artists were bold and colorful, some vague and monochromatic. Some of the details were amazing, especially the depiction of kimono patterns. Looking at Hokusai’s sketchbook, I was amazed at the level of detail he did. It reminded me of comic artist George Perez, who was famous for squeezing as much detail as he could into backgrounds and such.

These works are housed at museums all around the world; I feel very fortunate I was able to see such an eclectic and historical gathering all in one place.
Ukiyo-e coffee at the museum cafe