Book Reviews

Metaphysical Rationales: Why Do You Blog?

A friend at started me thinking this morning. She asked about timing on starting a blog, and about how to gain a following.
It is without doubt a long, tedious process to gain a following online. That’s why you have to start long before you are ready to send your novel to an agent. So how do you find these folks?
1. Choose a point for your blog. Mine is to promote Asian-themed literature. Do I get off point? Sure. More often than I’m on. However, if there’s ever someone who needs my sort of site to post something on or raise a question, I am so there!
You may have noticed I’ve reviewed a few Asian Themed books: “Silver Phoenix,” “The Wandering Monk” and “A Robe of Feathers.” I intend to continue with this, as I think it serves the general community of writes/readers and fits well with my theme. Early next year, I look forward to posting my first author interview and hope (and pray) to do more.
I’ve also started a Yahoo group for Authors of Asian Novels and promoted it on this blog. I started the group so that we could build a database of research materials, novels to read, music to enjoy while writing and anything else we can think of. It can also serve as a critique group, though no one has asked thus far. I wish I’d had access to that database and support while writing “Mourn Their Courage.” I hope to share and add to these resources as I continue in my career.
2. Build a following by becoming a follower. Post notes on other blogger’s sites, be kind and thoughtful and make sure your blog allows followers and gives your email. You will find followers doing this. Also, contact individuals when surfing. Most of my followers have come by to say hello because I said it first. BTW, I’m a zero on the introversion/extroversion scale. What excuse do you have?
3. Google news topics of interest to you, then contact those individuals whose names pop up. I’ve found more than a few followers and people to follow by doing that.
4. Offer information on contests and heck; even offer prizes for your own contest if you have an idea for one! Nothing sparks interest more than competition and generosity. (A lesson I’ve learned, but not incorporated, I know!)

I’m sure there are other methods I haven’t tried/thought of, so feel free to suggest them. I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong! LOL.

Back to why you want to start now:
By the time you’ve blogged for a year, you may feel like there’s little point. You have twenty to fifty followers. Big whoop, right? Don’t get discourage if you follow more than you’re followed. I think that’s the norm. I know there are followers of mine who never selected “Follow This Blog.” They follow by RSS feed, which I have no idea how to track. (Anyone?)You have more of a following than you know even with ten people signed up.

When an agent googles you or selects the url address that you DID include in your cover letter, they’ll see what you’ve got and be impressed, which is the whole point. Right?

Here comes the reason for my title. This morning, I got to the above question and stumbled. It made me think about this process.
Some folks blog everyday, write their novels and probably work as clowns for kids or bake for a local charity. I respect these individuals more than I can say. I blog when I have an idea and time to express it. My fiction comes first. Yet I still find myself wondering: why BLOG. I have a bazillion and one writer friends through online forums and my critique groups. I have their support and they have mine. So the obvious answer is, I’m marketing for my upcoming novel. That’s also too simple an answer and I would not continue if that were my sole response to this question. I’m going to take a leap here and paraphrase a favorite quote from “Shadowlands.” “We read (write/blog) to know we’re not alone.” That is why I continue to blog. Though Facebook says I have close to 200 friends and I have many others who don’t know what a computer keyboard looks like, let alone how to Facebook or blog-surf, I still want MORE.

Am I alone in that?

Why do you blog?

Book Review: "A Robe of Feathers"

A Robe of Feathers: And Other Stories“A Robe of Feathers” is a collection of short stories by Thersa Matsuura, an American living in Japan. By their nature, short story collections are difficult to review as a totality. That said, I’ll try to give an overall impression and some insight into individual tales.

Matsuura uses urban fantasy in Japanese settings to great effect in “Robe,” which is her first book. There are a few instances when it would have been helpful for me, a westerner, to be more familiar with the folkloric creatures she uses: Ojizo, Kappa, Tenjo Sagari, etc., but that knowledge was not always necessary. For instance, the first story, “A Robe of Feathers,” is a modern day version of the folktale which is also told within the context of the story. The “nymph” is never even given a Japanese name and the tale flows toward its beautiful, tragic conclusion. I thought the strongest of her offerings was the story with the greatest proliferation of creatures, “Sand Walls, Paper Doors.”

It’s told from the viewpoint of an American student in Japan. She’s lonely, but too shy to reach out to the strange population and culture around her. Then she’s transplanted into a haunted mansion where she finds spirits who are equally alien and lonely in modern Japan. The ensuing story moved me so much I wept for joy at the end. I can think of only one other short story that’s ever elicited that response. For me, the entire book’s brilliance culminated in that tale, though there are other excellent stories.

Many of Matsuura’s stories, among them, “Hate and Where It Breeds,” and “Ganguro and the Mountain Witch,” felt unfinished. They conveyed a sense that this was not the end, but the beginning of impending horror. For me, this was as if an oni had turned on the theme to “Jaws” while I read and my mind continued to follow that musical cue. I’m still a little tense, which is why I can’t say I loved all of Matsuura’s stories. However, I can appreciate the skill it took to achieve the dark, otherworldly effect she weaves through “A Robe of Feathers.”

If you are Japanese or if you are familiar with Japanese folklore and culture, this book will engross you. Matsuura’s style is spare, but fluid. She effortlessly grounds the reader in Japan’s modern cities and countryside. Even with unfamiliar terms and place names thrown in, I had no problem understanding her plots, though appreciating character motivations and goals derived from a foreign mindset was sometimes difficult.

Giving a score on a collection of short stories seems unfair as one has to “grade” on a curve. However, if you enjoy fantasy in alternative settings or you just love Japanese literature, I recommend this collection.

Book Review: Wandering Warrior by Chen Da (Da Chen in the West)

Wandering Warrior

Luka has five moles on each of his feet and this marks him as the “Holy Boy.” The future Emperor of China, he will be the man who will bring together the native Chinese and the hated Mongol invader. All Luka wants is enough food in his belly and the loyal fellowship of the brothers, Mahong and Mihong and his father-figure, Atami. But they are all captured and divided from Luka. He must escape his imprisonment and find a way to destroy the Mongol leader, Ghengi before he murders Atami. “Wandering Warrior” is as much a coming of age novel as action, adventure, or fantasy. There are elements of Chinese mythos woven throughout, which is fun. However, the author employed anachronistic language which jarred me at times. That said, I doubt a teenage boy will notice or care and that’s who the intended audience is. Despite the occasional “okay,” or maybe because of the Wuxia-style of comradery and attention to detail, I found this YA book hard to put down.

I give it 4 Pandas out of 5.