Kojiki has a Cover

After too long away, I’m back to show you the cover for my debut novel, Kojiki, available Aug. 2 in the US and Aug 4 in the UK. Look for it pretty much everywhere you buy your books. Click here to read the first chapter or visit fantasy-faction.com.

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Thanks to my publisher Angry Robot Books and fantastic cover artist Thomas Walker.

 

How well do you know your family history?

Last summer, my brother ventured down to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC to look at documents relating to my grandfather. The Harumichi Yatsuhashi Papers are there, with a fascinating look at my family’s history in the U.S.  Here’s the web version of what he found:

Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers 1907-1976
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Creator: 
Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family
Title: 
Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers 1907-1976
Phy. Description: 
8.25 linear feet
Digital Reference: 
Image Finding Aid
Bio / His Notes: 
Asian art dealer and merchant Yatsuhashi Harumichi (1886- 1982) was born in Tano, Japan, on December 15, 1886. Upon completion of his studies in Osaka, Mr. Yatsuhashi secured employment in the Osaka office of the prestigious Asian antiquities firm, Yamanaka & Company. In 1907 he joined Yamanka & Company’s branch office in Boston, Massachusetts, as its general manager and treasurer of the company’s Asian division. Located at 424 Boylston Street, the store was a center for Chinese art, as well as for Japanese assorted goods. In 1913 Yatsuhashi married Shigeki. They produced two sons (Michio and Masao) and two daughters (Sumiko and Kukiye). (Harumichi Yatsuhashi, Oriental art authority and Brookline resident. (1982 December 3). The Boston Globe, obituaries.) Following the United States’ entrance into World War II, the Alien Property Custodian seized the Yamanaka shops in New York, Boston, and Chicago. The holdings were sold at auction in May and June, 1944. In 1945, Yatsuhashi Harumichi and his son Michio opened their own Asian art dealership at 420 Boylston Street in Boston. Yatsuhashi Harumichi fostered exchange between his native and adopted homeland. He was a member and officer (president in 1931) of the Japan Society of Boston since 1921, an avid supporter of the Boston Marathon, and a founder of the Boston-Kyoto Sister City Foundation. (Boston Globe, 1982 December 4. ) Michio Yatsuhashi, who helped his father open the Yatsuhashi antique shop, died prematurely as a result of cancer in 1981. One year later, Mr. Yatsuhashi died in Boston at the age of 96. He was survived by his daughters, Sumiko and Kikuye and one son, Masao.
Scope and Content: 
The Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers (1906-1976) document the professional and personal lives of a Japanese-American family in Boston during the twentieth century. The patriarch, Yatsuhashi Harumichi (1886-1982), was an influential Asian art dealer and the papers also document the professional experiences of Asian art dealers in the United States during the early and mid 20th century. Mr. Yatsuhashi worked at the antiquities firm of Yamanaka & Company before starting his own Asian antiquities shop in 1945. Included in the papers, portions in Japanese, are correspondence; catalogues relating to the Alien Property Custodian’s 1944 liquidation of Yamanaka & Company’s New York branch’s holdings; photographs depicting art objects and shop interiors, the Yatsuhashi family; Yamanaka & Company, and extended family, friends, and colleagues; and items belonging to Mr. Yatsuhashi’s wife, Shigeki, and some of their children.
Language Note: 
In English and Japanese
Organization: 
This collection is organized into three series. Series 1: Yatsuhashi Harumichi papers, 1912-1965, n.d., series 2: Other family members, 1937, 1966, n.d., series 3: Photographs, 1907-1976, n.d.
Provenance: 
Gift of James Arthur Marinaccio, 1994
Finding aids: 
Electronic finding aid available.
Cite as: 
The Yatsuhashi Harumichi Family Papers. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of James Arthur Marinaccio, 1994.
Restrictions: 
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.

Anecdotally, my father regaled us of stories of his family before the war. Sadly, these were too few. The ones we all remember had to do with my grandfather’s work with the Japan Society (he was the Society’s president in 1931). Because of his position, he opened his house to Japanese visitors. The most controversial story had future Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, then a student at Harvard, babysitting my father and his siblings.

Below is one of the few remaining pictures we have. My grandfather is on the right. The man on the left is Admiral Osami Nagano, chief of the Imperial Japanese Naval General Staff in 1941, then fleet Admiral. My father recalled the last conversation my grandfather had with Yamamoto. I don’t remember if it was by phone, telex, or in person. Essentially it was, ‘you will not hear from me again.’

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My aunt, the last surviving member of my father’s immediate family, knows the Yatsuhashi family’s history in Japan. She still tells stories–one puts my family in the Imperial court in Kyoto. Yatsuhashi, she says, comes from the city bridges. Yatsuhashi was the eighth from the palace. Names originating from the seventh down to the first exist, the lower the number, the closer the family was to the Emperor. Below is a picture of the Yatsuhashi Bridge. A path crosses the South Pond via this Yatsuhashi Bridge (zigzag bridge) covered by a wisteria arbor. (hat tip: http://www.kunaicho.go.jp/e-about/shisetsu/oomiya-ph.html)

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My favorite story and unprovable–that may grandmother, Shigeki Kawano, had an ancestor who fought Kublai Khan’s invading forces when the typhoon, the Kami Kaze destroyed them in 1281. Is any of this true? I don’t know. Still, it’s fun to think so. Here’s a passage I found on Google from a book called the Mongol Invasion of Japan:

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My wife isn’t impressed, and my aunt’s claim that my family was once close to the Emperor, was once  Japanese nobility, doesn’t keep me from taking out the garbage. My wife notes that my aunt never came out and said our family was at the Court. She hinted, but then–well–she Japanese. Maybe if I could prove it… A few quick searches revealed a few instances of the name Yatsuhashi in Imperial Japan–one a blind musician, one a courtesan (say it’s not so!)

The point? Take time to get to know your parents and grandparents before it’s too late. What you learn may surprise you.

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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Kojiki Availability Update

Kojiki is now available at Amazon.

Kindle users. You can buy Kojiki for your Kindle at Musa Publishing’s site. Go here and select the prc file. An EPUB file is also available at Musa if you have a different e-reader.

http://musapublishing.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=6&products_id=569

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Kojiki is available now for the nook at Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/kojiki-keith-yatsuhashi/1046517716?ean=2940016489902

B&B

Tomorrow

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Seirin waited for them to move away before ordering the attack. She raised her hand and stepped back as Roarke’s thoughts swept into the basin. His power burrowed into the Earth. The ground along the shore tore free with a loud crack. Whole sections pulled away from the land, dragging soil and ocean into a fissure that stretched for miles. Water met magma and rocketed back to the surface as pressurized steam.

Vissyus’s volcano responded with a thunderous explosion. Towering flames roared into the morning sky. Wind carried the horrific echoes of land collapsing, of liquefying rock and air igniting.

Seirin’s gaze fixed on the volcano’s ruined crown. A burning sphere lifted out of it, a sun-fire orb, intensely bright and hot enough to melt the caldera to its roots. Two smaller orbs followed Vissyus into the sky, blazing red to his left, arctic blue to his right.

Fire raced from the dying island, leaping over the cracked shoreline and dropping onto the plains like firebombs. The earth withered and the seas boiled. Fiyorok landed in a flash of red-and-gold light. Akuan followed several hundred yards to the south, coating the ground with ice. Guarded mountains fell, the pools Seirin protected turned to vapor…

Kojiki.  Available tomorrow wherever e-books are sold.

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Kojiki–Fourth and Final Excerpt

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I close out my Kojiki preview at the edge of its climactic battle. Enjoy. Tweet it. Share. And by all means, check out the book next Friday.

Yui knelt on the tatami mats of her father’s study, Matsuda’s staff cradled in her hands. She came back to the room shortly after Vissyus reappeared, watching as long as she could before emotion overcame her. Tears still spilled from her eyes. Tokyo was as much her home as this castle. It was part of her, and now it burned. Why did her father have to take so much from its people in order to save them? Maybe surviving would be enough for them.

It wasn’t for her.

Her Searching transported her to the heart of the city. Shinjuku’s proud skyscrapers were a pile of ash, Tokyo Tower now little more than twisted metal. She ghosted down Chuo Dori. Ginza Station had disappeared beneath a toppled building. The intersection where she’d lost Keiko was a tangle of melted wire, soot, and shattered neon tubes. The acrid scent of charred wood and chemical fires blended with the coppery tang of blood. Their monks did their best, but she never expected them to save everyone. Her father tried to hide that from her, and now she understood why.

She felt their Spirits—lifetimes and memories forever lost to the world. A battle wasn’t some game; she understood that now. The ruined city was proof enough for her. So much destruction with so little effort. What would happen when Vissyus unleashed his full power?

Shivering, she hugged Matsuda’s staff and lowered her head. Where was his strength when she needed it?

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Kojiki is out April 19 on ebook. You can pre-order it now directly from MusaPublishing.com. Coming next Friday to Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and other e-book sellers.