Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi

Another Great Review for Kojiki

Kojiki by Kieth Yatsuhashi

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4.5 Paws

This is how legends are made!!

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I received a lovely email from the author, read the blurb and thought – damn I need to give this a go. I love anything to do with myth and legends, and it even involves Japan – so how could I resist when it has everything!! It’s set in the modern day Japan but with ancient aspects thrown in there. Its about this young woman named Keiko, who believes that she’s just an ordinary, American born, Japanese … until her dad dies and she agrees to his last wish, to go to Tokyo. Well that’s when she’s thrown into a word of Spirits, Dragons, God’s and Magic – it’s one of those, ‘You need to see, to believe it’ kinda things.  Now throw in a bad guy that looks like a kid and we have a receipt for an…

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Book Review: Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi

Another great review! Thanks to artsandyouth love!

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Authoress Note: I’d like to thank Mr. Yatsuhashi for allowing me to review his book and for giving me an advanced reader’s copy.

Plot Summary: When eighteen-year-old Keiko Yamada’s father dies unexpectedly, he leaves behind a one way ticket to Japan, an unintelligible death poem about powerful Japanese spirits and their gigantic, beast-like Guardians, and the cryptic words: “Go to Japan in my place. Find the Gate. My camera will show you the way.” 

Alone and afraid, Keiko travels to Tokyo, determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish. There, beneath glittering neon signs, her father’s death poem comes to life. Ancient spirits spring from the shadows. Chaos envelops the city, and as Keiko flees its burning streets, her guide, the beautiful Yui Akiko, makes a stunning confession–that she, Yui, is one of a handful of spirits left behind to defend the world against the most powerful among them: a once noble spirit now…

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I Can Haiku. Can You?

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The other night, my son told me his class had to write a haiku. He shared a few from his fellow students, all incredibly creative–one, that I previously quoted here turned out to be floating around the web for quite some time–Doh! I’ll have to let my son know. It’ll make a nice lesson. It’s REALLY easy for students to get busted nowadays 🙂

Anyway, back to the Haiku. I loved that my son’s class was learning about them. Not long ago, Haiku saved me from a frustrating bout of writer’s block.  Writers always get stuck at one point or another, often more than one. For me, it happened with the notoriously difficult-to-tell backstory.  I’d made all the cliche rookie mistakes: too much backstory too soon, tell don’t show, interrupting the story’s flow. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda.

I just couldn’t figure out why Kojiki’s backstory gave me such a hard time. It wasn’t because I needed to write it, I already had–it’s just that I didn’t know how to integrate it into the story’s narrative. I decided, for a few key scenes, to use the characters’ powers–it IS fantasy–as a vehicle for them to share their memories.  It turned out to work fairly well, but I didn’t want to overuse it.  I knew I needed something else, a little variety to keep the narrative fresh.  While the ultimate solution works really well, it doesn’t reflect the crazy path I took to find it.

Remember now, I wanted Kojiki to be a big, heroic epic. An emotional roller-coaster for the characters. It had to be serious and grim. Never in my wildest dreams did I think one of the crassest, most juvenile shows on TV would help me out. That show was Beavis and Butthead.  Yes, you read that correctly. Beavis and Butthead. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit the show often has me in stitches. If you never been a 14-year-old boy, you won’t get it. If you have, then you’ve lived it.

The episode in question had the little delinquents learning about the ‘ancient Japanese art of haiku’.  Needless to say, their haiku were ridiculous. Funny–but ridiculous.

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Halfway through Beavis’s numbingly stupid yet hilarious haiku, I started messing around with haiku in my head. They were just as stupid. Then, something incredible happened.  Inspiration. I realized a haiku would make the perfect delineator for Kojiki’s past and present.  Instead of cueing the reader with the bland ‘The Distant Past’, which I still used by the way, I opened each backstory scene with a haiku.  The reader would know, whenever he/she came across the haiku, we were going to backstory.  I made sure I kept those particular backstory scenes in concurrent chapters to avoid confusion, and viola! Bob’s your uncle.

A little research on haiku courtesy of Google, and I was back in business. I already knew about the format, I just needed to learn more about form. Most haiku have an ethereal feel to them. Like mist on a mountain. I had to go through a couple of versions, but I am pleased with the result. In the end, Kojiki has three haiku, the first of which I’ll use to close this post:

A woman hungers 

Spring turns into winter snow

Winter brings the fire

The moral of the story here, inspiration can come from the strangest places. Keep your eyes and your mind open, and sooner or later, it’ll come.

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Heroes and Villains Blog-Hop

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When the Hero’s the Villain and the Villain’s the Hero

I’d like to open things up here with a big thank you to Martin Bolton for organizing this Heroes and Villains blog hop. With so many SF/Fantasy authors blogging about the genre, we’re bound to have some lively and interesting discussions. Not to mention prizes! So, be sure to check out all the blogs, win some prizes. See what they say and start up a conversation before hopping to the next author. My prize is a swag-bag from my book, Kojiki.

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To win, you have to leave a comment on this blog, retweet my post, share, and favorite it. I’ll choose from the post that hits me just right–but be warned, it has to relate to my post. It must also add something to the discussion. No snarks, please. We’re closing the Blog Hop on May 6, so that’s when I’ll choose the winner! Don’t forget leaving some way for me to contact you 🙂

Now, on with the show. I thought it might fun–and different–to take a cue from Gregory Maguire’s Wicked. For those unfamiliar with the book, Mr. Maguire flips what we know about the merry old land of Oz upside down and leaves us questioning our preconceived notions of good and evil.

Mr. Maquire is by no means the first to bend the rules, so to speak. When Sutekh the Destroyer famously–and chillingly–says to Tom Baker’s Doctor Who, “Your evil is my good,” he’s expressing the same idea, namely: that POV plays a big part in determining good and evil, and by default heroes and villains.

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(“Your evil is my good.” Sutekh from Doctor Who–Pyramids of Mars)

Not that I want to disagree with a god or anything, but since SF/fantasy fans are by and large human beings, the POV is pretty well established. And that’s the challenge for an author. Given our preconceptions, how do we, as storytellers, create complex and compelling characters?

For me, the answer meant making the hero’s actions somewhat less than heroic. No milquetoast, squeaky-clean good guys here. True, I set them up as typical goody-goodies, but only because I wanted you to believe in their goodness. To empathize with them. Then–BAM–I have them behave badly. Very badly. The tragic flaw, that’s what my English teacher called it. I prefer to think of it as a nifty plot device that adds depth and momentum to the story.

My ostensible heroes end up turning the story’s noblest character into its villain. Then, just because I didn’t think that was enough of a gut punch, I decided the only way for them to stop their creation from destroying the world was to kill him. Not very heroic, now is it?

As for the supposed villain, he’s actually the only character in the story who acts selflessly. His reasons aren’t necessarily pure, but his desire to help his friends certainly is. Too bad it all goes so horribly wrong. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, as they say. And fall he does–in spectacularly heart-wrenching fashion. Bad enough to do something for all the right reasons–worse to do it for love THEN have it turn you into a monster.

Early on, I told my editor I wanted a cross between Billy Budd and the Phantom of the Opera–with a little mad-scientist thrown in for good measure.  I then added infinite power, madness, and made sure his best friends were the ones who had to destroy him. If I did this right, the reader will dread the book’s cataclysmic ending as much as anticipate it. Right and wrong, good and bad. You’ll have to decide for yourself which of my characters are heroic and which are villainous. It might not be as easy as you think.

Check out these other authors participating in the blog hop for more on heroes and villains–not to mention prizes!

  1. Nyki Blatchley
  2. Martin Bolton
  3. Debra Brown
  4. Adrian Chamberlin
  5. Mike Cooley
  6. Karin Cox
  7. Joanna Fay
  8. Peter B Forster
  9. Ron Fritsch
  10. Mai Griffin
  11. Joanne Hall
  12. Jolea M Harrison
  13. Tinney Sue Heath
  14. Eleni Konstanine
  15. “K. Scott Lewis
  16. Paula Lofting
  17. Liz Long
  18. Peter Lukes
  19. Mark McClelland
  20. M. Edward McNally
  21. Sue Millard
  22. Rhiannon Douglas
  23. Ginger Myrick
  24. David Pilling
  25. EM Powell
  26. Kim Rendfeld
  27. Terry L Smith
  28. Tara West
  29. Mike Cooley