Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book Two Off to My Editor – I’ve Been in Japan for 4 Weeks

I finished my latest read through of my second novel and I’ve sent it off to my editor. I should hear from him in a few days about which direction we need to go. If you’re interested in reading an excerpt, click on the cover of my first novel, A Wind In Montana, at the top right of the blog page and leave me your contact information. I’ll send you an email with the excerpt.

My second novel is due out in January. It will be published by, Pensmith who’s home page is I will have more about my second novel on the website soon.

I spent a few hours the other night creating the cover and I sent it off to my editor as well. He liked it. I’ll have it up on the Zonajin page soon.

Two days ago we had the draft in one of my Fantasy Football leagues. Just like I had predicted before coming to Japan, the internet is amazing at making it seem like I’m still involved with those I left behind. Aside from a miscalculation of the start time on my part it went off without a hitch. I had mistakenly calculated the start time as if I were in Arizona converting to Japan time when it was really the other way around. My brother fixed the error for me.

This weekend my girlfriend was traveling to the mountains in New Mexico. She took her notepad with her and managed to get connected to the internet and we were still able to Skype connect. I’ve also been able to watch the Hometown Cardinals play their exhibition football games via satellite so I haven’t had to do it via Skype, even though that did work when we tried it.

I am taking a trip to a small town to the North of Tokyo for two days a week from now. It’s a research trip to the area of the country where my third novel takes place. I’m going to hike parts of the Nakasendo Highway and get a feel for the scenery and views in the area. The town that is the setting doesn’t appear to exist any longer but other nearby towns do.

It was easy enough to figure out the train schedules and routes. I mentioned in an early blog entry that I discovered a website that supplies that type of information. The link can be found on my author page at my publisher’s website listed above. The difficulty I had in organizing the trip was making a hotel reservation.

My Japanese lessons from Pimsleur (info available on my author page), had a whole section on making hotel reservations. I could have gone to that section and reviewed the lesson, then made the call but I had two concerns. First, I worried that I would ask a question and not understand what they asked me in return. I’m still having difficulty listening and understanding what is being said to me. Second, I’d read some time ago that many hotels in small towns don’t feel they can provide proper service to foreign guests so they say their hotel is booked.

So I tried to get my friend who is a travel agent to book the hotel. She told me to go into their office in Tokyo and get the people there to do the booking. She said it would be a good chance to try my Japanese and also to make contact with them in case I needed them again. That was good advice but I didn’t take it.

Instead, I mentioned my situation to my friend from La Rochelle. Although he is a foreigner too, he’s lived in Japan for twenty years and speaks Japanese fluently. He also has a Japanese girlfriend who can read the reservation screen. While I was Skyping with him he called the hotel in Miyota and made the reservation while I listened to his side of the conversation so now I’m all set. It should be cooler up there as well.

It’s still very hot here in Tokyo and I’ve been out in the heat quite a bit. In Arizona I move from one air conditioned environment to another and don’t stay outdoors very long but in Tokyo I want to be out and moving around seeing the various sections of town.

In my previous blog post I talked about grocery stores and the next day I found a new and larger one in the town one station to the west called Musashi Sakai. I am one sheet short of a made bed (sounds like one of those line, one brick short of a full load, etc,) for when my girlfriend arrives and my friend told me about a department store out in front of the train station in Musashi Sakai. It’s called Ito Yokado. It’s a great store with great prices and good selection. I found the bed sheet quickly then walked through the store to see what else they had. They had everything at reasonable prices. The only draw back is that it is a thirty minute walk. I could take the train but walking is one of my main methods of exercise these days.

Knowing that the basement floor in most department stores is a food floor I saved that until last. What I found was the best grocery store so far. I had planned to eat in a restaurant near the station but when I saw the prepared food section of this food floor I knew I was eating from what they offered. It took about a half hour to go through the store and see everything before deciding.

While touring the store I got to try pickled daikon and some sake (salmon) sashimi. Both were delicious. I bought a box of sushi that had been marked down (see previous blog entry about the food discounting process) then in the fried fish section I bought some crisp fried ika (squid) and some crispy fried sanma (don’t know the English name). I wanted to pop open the fried fish and try them immediately but decided to torture myself on the walk home.

It was worth it. The crispy fried items were savory delicious (and I didn’t use any sauce of any kind). I only tried a few pieces of each because I wanted to save some for lunch the next day. I also had a box of sushi and some pickled bamboo shoots to eat. The crispy items were equally delicious the next day and I’ve thought of going back to get more everyday since then.

I’ve been here for four weeks now and it’s been great. I went to my fourth Matsuri Festival in Harajuku yesterday. This one had non-traditional dance teams marching down the street for four and a half hours. The dance teams followed huge truck with powerful sound systems blaring out the team’s music. There was a platform on top of the truck and one to three singers stood on the platform belting out the songs or leading a chant for the dancers. The music ranged from Michael Jackson to modernized traditional Japanese music. There was a team from Ghana that had a custom song that spoke about the strong relationship between Ghana and Japan.

My other friend from La Rochelle, the young girl, had asked me to go and we took a break to go to a foodie event in Shinjuku that La Rochelle was participating in. The kitchen staff went to the event at 7:00 AM and made Beef Bourguignon, a bunch of it. The event ended at 4:30 PM and then the staff all went to work for that night’s service. The Beef Bourguignon was very rich and flavorful. The red wine, onions and consume were in perfect balance.

I was able to have a few conversations in Japanese with strangers at the festival and I did better understanding what I was being told. My young friend is just learning English so we struggled sometimes to understand our conversation but we spent about nine hours together and managed to communicate quite well.

After we went to the original branch of the Okinawan/Chinese restaurant, Tama, that her father's cousin works at as a chef. His food was again delicious. We had the special 'sea grape' sea weed that pops in your mouth again. My friend had told him of my interest in sumo and he his father it turns out is a good friend of the Oyakata (top coach and manager) of one of the 51 sumo stables. They asked if I was interested in going to a morning practise next month and I instantly replied, Zehi (by all means). So I may get an up close look inside a sumo stable.

Once again, the hospitality of the Japanese people shines through. I've been lucky to have found very good friends in this wonderful country.

I’m getting more comfortable here everyday. I’m happy with the way the writing is going and my Japanese is coming along. If it would just cool down.

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