Monthly Archives: April 2011

Guest Post by Alexis Bonari: Japanese Poetry

Japanese Poetry as Translated by Hiroaki Sato

I should have been born fascinated with my heritage. Not everyone can say they’re descended from a line of powerful samurai, or that their resilient family survived the world’s first militarily employed atomic weapon.
Still, my country’s history—much less its literature—didn’t interest me until I left it and the Pacific Ocean behind to attend college in the United States. And that’s where I met Hiroaki Sato.

I call him Sato-san, as is respectful in our culture. I knew nothing of him when we first met except that he worked in New York as a purported giant in the field of Japanese literature and translation, which at the time meant little to me anyhow.

I found upon our meeting that despite his fame, Sato-san was humble and more eager to learn about my interest (or lack thereof) in our mother country than he was to talk about his published works.

I, on the other hand, find the latter much more fascinating.
From the Country of Eight Islands

One can hardly consider Japanese history without considering its poetry. “Poetry was a part of daily life, a means of expression for anyone who felt the need to manifest emotion through ordered language,” writes Thomas Rimer in the introduction to From the Country of Eight Islands.

Any sometime reader or die-hard enthusiast in Far East Asian literature must have a copy of From the Country of Eight Islands on the shelf (or better yet, in one’s hands). Sato-san and Burton Watson, another giant in the genre, have translated countless poems across the ages—from the pages of Kojiki, or Record of Ancient Matters, to present day—and ranks—“from emperors and priests to anonymous soldiers and peasants.” The following are some of my favorites:

From Princess Tajima, who died in 708, thinking of Prince Hozumi while at Prince Takechi’s palace:
As in the autumn paddies rice stalks lean only one way, so would I lean to you, though the rumor pains me

From Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694:
Plum blossoms at their best—if only the wind blew empty-handed!

From Masaoka Shiki, 1867-1902:

A stray cat
shits in my
winter garden

Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology

Sato-san pays tribute to the sex often overlooked in literature in his more recent publication, Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology. In fact, a quick glance through my 300-level English Literature textbook takes note of only one woman writer prior to Chaucer—Marie de France, Lanval, of Anglo-Norman literature—while Kojiki alone contains the works of 58 female poets, about 30% of its contributors at the time of its publication in 712 CE.

In the anthology, Sato-san enlightens unacquainted readers with the particular role women played in what is often and rightfully regarded as a patriarchal nation’s literature, inseparable from its history. The translator’s presence is practically nonexistent, and voices rise from the poetry like ghosts.

From Empress Yamato (7th Century), when Emperor [Tenchi] passed away:

Others, yes, may stop longing,
but his vine-crowned visage in my mind
I can never forget.

From Ito Masajo (Born 1882):
Cupid often runs out of arrows and is lost

From Ishigaki Rin (Born 1920):

Miniature Clams
At midnight I woke up.
The miniature clams I’d brought in the evening
were alive in a corner of the kitchen
their mouths open.
“In the morning
I’ll eat you,
every last one of you.”
I laughed
a witch’s laugh.
After that
I could only sleep through the night,
my mouth open slightly.

Bio: Alexis Bonari is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching education administration scholarships as well as scholarships for blind students. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.

Interview with author Lisa Kessler

I’m pleased to be able to interview author Lisa Kessler, author of “Across the Veil,” on my blog today. Do check out Lisa’s book (see link below). I was lucky enough to read it, and it’s really delightful.

Tell us something about yourself:
I’m an avid Disney fan, but I also enjoy dark paranormal fiction. I was lucky enough to met Ray Bradbury and that brief encounter changed my writing life. When I’m not writing, I sing professionally. I’m married with two really cool kids. (I think that was a few somethings! 🙂

I understand that your new book, “Across the Veil,” has just been released. Can you tell us something about that?
– Across the Veil was a short fiction piece I wrote for the Paranormal Fight Club contest on the Romance in the Backseat book blog. It started with a female falling and landing on a black leather boot. I thought she might be falling on purpose, and Talia came forth as an actress who was really the Princess of Summerland hiding across the veil in the human world. Each week we wrote a new section of the stories and one more writer was eliminated. At the end of the contest, Across the Veil was left standing as the winner.

Love your cover. Can you tell us something about it?
– I was lamenting and worrying over making a cover myself, when I stumbled across the photo on the Jimmy Thomas romance cover photo page. He looked exactly like how I had imagined Keth, my hero, in Across the Veil. So I bought the rights and feel very lucky to be able to use it!

What would you tell others who are considering self-publishing?
– Be sure you have your work edited. I had gone through the story numerous times, but my critique group really helped me to polish it even further before I published it. As more people self-publish it gets harder to stand out from the crowd. Good editing can really help your work shine.

What are you working on now?
– Right now, I’m working on edits for the release of my first novel, Night Walker. This book is being published by Entangled Publishing and will be released in August of this year.

How do you structure your writing time?
I’m a night owl, so I’m usually up writing pretty late. I feel most creative after dark…

Can you tell us something about your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
– I’m a pantster. I usually let the characters guide the story. Sometimes I do have an idea for the ending of the book, but I never know the path they’ll take to get there. 🙂

Where can readers find your book?
– Across the Veil is available on Amazon for the Kindle, and on Smashwords for the Nook and other eReaders.

Where can readers find you on the web?
– You can find me on facebook at: on Twitter at: or on my Blog at:

Any last words?
– Thanks for letting me visit your blog! I really appreciate your help in getting the word out about Across the Veil!!

Interview with author Kathryn Scannell

Tell us something about yourself
I’ve been an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy since about 4th grade when I picked up a copy of Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein from my school library. My current day job is data management for an environmental remediation and emergency response contractor. I’ve also worked as a Unix and network administrator, a programmer, a data entry clerk, and an administrative assistant. I’m a life-long resident of New Hampshire. My wife and I currently share a house with six cats, who let us live there in return for providing them with food and a comfy bed.

Your book, “Embracing the Dragon,” is being released on April 13th. Can you tell us a little about the book?
Embracing the Dragon is the story of Danny O’Riordan, a young man from Boston, in the not too distant future, and his romantic entanglements with two very powerful men, as he comes to terms with his sexuality. He’s sworn service to an Elf, King Aran of Avalon, and when he begins to consider the possibility that he’s attracted to men as well as women, he naturally turns to him. Of course nothing is simple in Danny’s life. He started exploring the idea that he might be interested in men because of a vision of a past life where he had a male lover. As you’re probably already suspecting, that old lover has been reborn too, and the fire between them has not gone out. Danny knows he shouldn’t restart that other old relationship. Elves don’t believe in monogamy, but it would be a political nightmare. But his heart is saying yes, even while his head is saying no. Will he succumb to the temptation of that second relationship, or lock his heart away and focus on his duty to Aran?

I understand the setting is a joint creation of yourself and B A Collins. How did that come about?
It started many years ago as a fantasy role playing game. I think we started around 1985. B A ran the game, and devised the original world background. We played weekly until the early 1990’s and the world background became deeper and more complex. B A and I were sharing an apartment, and so we passed a lot of ideas back and forth.
She moved off to the wilds of northern Vermont to get married, and the game stopped, with the major story line unresolved. One summer I spent much of a solo drive from New Hampshire to the western edge of Pennsylvania thinking about how the major plot arc would make a pretty good epic fantasy novel, but didn’t do anything with it. Eventually my new roommate, who had aspirations to be a writer, sold her first novel.. I was between jobs and decided to resurrect the old idea for the fantasy novel. I asked BA if she minded me using the setting, since even though it was my character, and I’d added a lot to it, it was ultimately her creation in the beginning. She got excited about the idea. Along with a couple of other friends we started a local writing group in 2004.
We’ve spent a lot of time working out the changes we need to make to move the setting from being a successful game world to one suited for writing about. You can’t just write up what happened in a game and have it work. We did keep major events from the game, but pruned a lot of dead wood. And no, in case you’re wondering, the game was nowhere near as x-rated as the novel.

Can you tell us a little about Avalon and the Tengri Empire?
It’s another world, reached by magical Gates, where the energies which support magic are stronger than in this one. It’s peopled by a variety of races. There are fairly traditional Elves – tall, fair people with magic and pointed ears. There are Tengri – closely related to the Elves, but with more oriental features. There are Kennakriz barbarians, who started out as humans, but were improved physically by their god Glaive thousands of years ago. There are ordinary humans of various ethnic flavors. There are some other races such as Dwarves, but they haven’t come on stage much. And then there is Hell, which is still another world, with odd physical and magical properties, peopled by demons. The Tengri have a lot of ties with Hell, politically and magically.
The major plot arc is that there is a race of very alien beings, commonly referred to as the Devourers, who are moving from world to world like a horde of locusts, devouring the life energy of worlds, leaving them as frozen husks before moving on to the next target. The Elves and Tengri held them back for a long time, but eventually the Gates were breached and Avalon was invaded. The Elves were pushed back over the course of several years, and in 2017 opened the Gates from Avalon to Earth, which had been sealed for centuries, seeking allies. The Elves have lost much of their territory on Avalon, and are maintaining a government in exile on Earth. The Tengri are holding their own, barely.
On Earth it’s a time of re-awakening magic, returning gods, and desperate heroes. The current novel is set midway through the war. The Devourers will be turned back, but only at a terrible cost. By the time it’s over casualties on both Earth and Avalon will be reckoned in millions.
Are you planning more work in this setting?
Absolutely. I have two other short stories featuring Danny already available from Torquere Books, and a g-rated, non-romantic short story featuring a different set of characters coming out in December in Spells and Swashbucklers, a collection of stories featuring pirates and magic, coming from Dragon Moon Press.
I have a sequel to Embracing the Dragon in progress. There’s another novel which needs a complete rewrite before it sees the light of day sitting on my hard drive – it was my actual first, and as you might expect, the first draft is crap. I also have a skeleton plot for a spin-off novella featuring a couple of minor characters from Embracing the Dragon.

B A has a romantic trilogy, involving mostly heterosexual relationships, and an occasional ménage for spice, complete in draft. She’ll probably be putting out queries for that one soon.
There are lots of ideas for this setting. We have a long timeline, and plenty of room to play. You can definitely expect more.

How long have you been writing? Do you write full time?
I started writing actually trying to write, as opposed to daydreaming story bits, in 2004. Unless I win megabucks I don’t think I’m going to be a full time writer before I hit retirement. While I like writing, I do actually like my day job too. I’d miss it. I might work less hours, but even if I hit the lottery I don’t think I’d quit completely.

How do you structure your writing time?
Structure? What’s that? Seriously, I don’t try to structure myself. I know a regimented schedule works well for many writers, but it’s not for me. I think if I tried to force myself to do that I’d eventually start resenting it, and that would be it. I’d stop. I do a lot of processing in the back of my head, a lot of daydreaming, before I sit down to write out a story. If I don’t give that time to happen, and try to just write for the sake of having a word count, the results are crap that I end up throwing out. Although it is true that deadlines are marvelously inspirational.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten as a writer? The worst?
The best advice is a line from Kipling:
“There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
“And every single one of them is right!”
(“In the Neolithic Age”,
There’s no one true correct way to write. There are ways that work better than others for most people, and ways that are easier than others to execute well, but for every rule there are a dozen successful exceptions. The right answer is the one that produces a story that works for your readers.
The worst advice is a prize I’ll give jointly to everyone who has offered me the latest and greatest theory on how to write, or how to structure your book, as the One True Way, handed down from on high. I’ve seen aspiring writers spend so much time studying theories and trying to make their story fit them that they lose all touch with the story. You can make anything fit a model if you break enough bits off, but by the time you’ve made it fit you may not have anything left worth keeping.

Any favorite authors you’d care to recommend?
This is a list that could go one for pages. I’ll offer a few that I’ve been reading lately: Elizabeth Bear; Jacqueline Carey; C. J. Cherryh; Charles de Lint; C. S. Friedman; George R. R. Martin; Jane Yolen.

What are you working on now?
Aside from the sequel to Embracing the Dragon, I’ve been working on a thriller set in Israel featuring a special department of the Mossad which deals with magical problems. This one is a complete departure from my published work – it has no romance elements in it at all, although there may be a side plot in the sequel.
I’ve also got a historical fantasy set in early 1900’s Dublin on the drawing board. That will have a romance element, but only as a subplot. The focus of the book is an alternate history of the Easter Rebellion.

Where can readers buy your book?
The best way to buy it will be directly from the Torquere Books web site: . I won’t have a buy link available until it releases on the 13th, but once it’s out it will be on my author page, along with my other Torquere stories here:
Torquere also offers books through All Romance Ebooks, Amazon, Fictionwise, Ingram Books/LightningSource, Mobipocket, and Rainbow Ebooks.

Where can readers find you on the web?
My main presence is my web site:
I also have an infrequently updated blog:

Any last words?
I love to hear from readers. You can contact me by email at

Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature

Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!