The Exile Has Ended

 

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The previous name of this blog was “Tokyo Exile,” but now that the exile has ended and I’m back in Hawaii, I’m renaming, and re-tasking, the blog to serve a new function.

I returned to Hawaii to write, and specifically to write mysteries. My co-author, Aki Liao, and myself have so far written two historical mysteries set in post-WWII Honolulu. The first, A Halo for Red Betsy, was begun in New Jersey, and finished in Tokyo and Taipei (where Aki currently lives). The second, The Cheongsam Bombshell (due out in March 2015), was written entirely in Tokyo and Taipei.

However, writing about Hawaii from outside of Hawaii was proving to be more difficult, so, when the opportunity to return presented itself, I took it.

So now I’m on the Big Island working on the third Frank Keegan mystery, which will also take place mostly in Honolulu (Frank may have to go to the Philippines). So yeah, I know, living in Honolulu would make more sense than Hilo, but this is where I am.

This new blog, Winging It, will be dedicated primarily to discussing my writing process, and our (mine and Aki’s) approach to mystery writing.

Hagridden — Guest Author Post #1

Hagridden Newest Cover

Hagridden is a historical novel by Samuel Snoek-Brown, published by Columbus Press (ColumbusPressBooks.com).

Straddling the line of historical and contemporary literary fiction, Hagridden is a haunting drama that unflinchingly approaches race, culture, apathy, and humanity stripped to its core. It reveals what real people will do to endure, as well as how some morph into unrecognizable beasts while others hollow into shells of their former selves.

The novel follows two women struggling to survive in the war-torn South as the Civil War tumbles to an end. In a storm-ravaged bayou, their efforts and sanity are further threatened by the intrusion of a revenge-bent Confederate officer and supposed sightings of the fabled rougarou, a fierce wolf-like creature of local lore.

Shaded in Southern Gothic and classical motifs yet written in a sharp contemporary style reminiscent of Tom Franklin, Charles Frazier, and Cormac McCarthy, Hagridden presents a strangely beautiful world where humanity plays the contradictory roles of protagonist and antagonist.
Hardback, paperback and e-book editions of Hagridden are available at Amazon.com and at all major e-book retailers.

Find Hagridden here! Link to- http://www.amazon.com/Hagridden-Samuel-Snoek-Brown/dp/0989173798/

Caught in the Crossfire: Writers Waging War

Here’s a well-stated, strong argument in favor of self-publishing. If you’re new writer, there simply are no good reasons to go with a traditional publishing house. That’s right. Zero. Zip. Nada. self-publish, expressed very well.

Writerz Block Editing Service Presents: A Word to the Wise

Caught in the Crossfire: Writers Waging War.

I’ve been wracking my brain all damned day about the new dramatics facing Amazon.  The more I research indie publishing versus legacy publishing, the more inclined I am to urge fledgling authors to consider publishing independently.  I also advise all authors to follow Barry Eisler, one of the most respected traditional to indie published authors I know.

I met Barry on Myspace roughly ten years ago.  At the time, I didn’t know who he was-I was just networking and ran across him by chance.  I was shocked to find that this NYT Bestseller actually talked openly and directly to me-not something that had ever happened to me before.  It was nice, too-talking to a real live human and not a cursory exchange that I would otherwise expect from a famed author.

After I started speaking with him on occasion about writing, I…

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Merrill: The Girl with No Fear of Flying.

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The Merrill Diaries, by my friend, Susan Tepper

My first impression of Merrill is that she is a woman on a quest or an odyssey, though that would imply a goal of some sort; apparently Merrill’s goal is to simply go. Go, and keep going.

At the beginning of Merrill’s journey we find her in a dead-end marriage to Teddy, who seems a decent enough guy, good looking, but clueless; he doesn’t like Merrill bringing up that “stupid women lib stuff” that she gets from that “commie magazine” called Ms.(yeah, they are clearly not living in the same reality). She’s also working at the perfect dead-end job, a “freaking travel agency,” that leaves her envious of her customers: “even the lowly student with a cheap Eurail pass.”

What’s a girl to do? Join a rock band, what else?

Merrill’s view of the world seems zany at times (“I won’t dye my crotch,” I whisper in his ear.), but what I find irresistible is her courage. Despite missing the aqua walls of their house, she leaves Teddy (It’s not like he didn’t have it coming after inviting the spies and their devil dog Mungo to share their house) for Eddie, the lead guitarist in the band she joins (“It’s blasting idyllic for a week, until it comes time to do the laundry.”).

Speaking of Teddy, she writes, “his gray vision forming a gray life. I take no responsibility in this outcome!” This is what I love most about Merrill; other people are responsible for their own lives and, as the story progresses, we see that Merrill holds herself to the same standard. Her successes, blunders, and mishaps are hers (even when others have a clear hand in the troubles).

Not surprisingly, the singing gig doesn’t pan out (the place she shares with Eddies burns down) and so it’s off to London to sell truffles as Merrill Kimberly and marry well, only to also leave him and go to Greece in time for the revolution. And so Merrill goes, and goes, and goes. I love a girl who is not afraid to put the wind at her back

Besides Merrill herself, I also enjoy how Tepper has constructed a unified whole of the thirty stand-alone chapters that make up The Merrill Diaries. It is an intriguing, seamless (zipless?) read that keeps us wondering, what will this girl get up to next? While reading it I was perpetually smiling and frequently laughing out loud thanks to Tepper’s wit and timing.

If someone called one of my books “a delight,” I’d probably turn snarky and ask, “What is that, a dessert?” Merrill herself might ask, “Me? A delight? You must have me confused.” But what can I say, The Merrill Dairies IS a delight, as is its eponymous irrepressible heroine. As one other reviewer noted, “I want more of Merrill!”

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Merrill-Diaries-Susan-Tepper-ebook/dp/B00GW18AQ2/

Richard Brautigan and the Ghost of the Bolinas House

I just read a third account of the ghost of the Bolinas house and so thought I’d repost this.

Winging It

One of my favorite authors is Richard Brautigan. I like him so much that in addition to reading his novels and poetry, I’ve also read memoirs about him (I normally do not enjoy memoirs and biographies). In two of these, Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by his long time friend, Keith Abbot, and You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by his daughter, Ianthe, I encountered a true ghost story. I was pleased by the discovery because I’ve also recently become interested in ghost stories (both true and fictional accounts). Both authors had contact with this ghost, and provide accounts that are both close enough and different enough that I can accept them as true.  I’ve included both here so that you can judge for yourselves.

In the early 1970s, Richard Brautigan bought a house in Bolinas, California (along the coast north of…

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Attacked by Fairies

This photo was taken in northern Oregon rather than in the Philippines (I have few photos from that time), but you get the idea.
This photo was taken in northern Oregon rather than in the Philippines (I have few photos from that time), but you get the idea.

In either late 1977 or early 1978, I was visiting my then wife’s remote village in southern Luzon in the Philippines. One day we went to visit an even more remote farm, and had to walk through the forest to get there. At one point I needed to urinate and so slipped behind a tree to do so.

That night I was struck with extreme painful constipation. There was no doctor in her village, so a traditional healer was called. After examining me, he asked if we’d been in the forest, and upon hearing that we had, asked if I’d urinated on a tree. After admitting that I had, he that was the cause, that spirit that lived there, translated for me at the time as “fairy,” was retaliating. The condition lasted until we returned to Manila.

One could argue that it was simply a reaction to food, but I had by that time been living in the Philippines for over a year and was acclimated to the diet, even to the point of eating dishes foreigners typically avoid.

Richard Brautigan and the Ghost of the Bolinas House

One of my favorite authors is Richard Brautigan. I like him so much that in addition to reading his novels and poetry, I’ve also read memoirs about him (I normally do not enjoy memoirs and biographies). In two of these, Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by his long time friend, Keith Abbot, and You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by his daughter, Ianthe, I encountered a true ghost story. I was pleased by the discovery because I’ve also recently become interested in ghost stories (both true and fictional accounts). Both authors had contact with this ghost, and provide accounts that are both close enough and different enough that I can accept them as true.  I’ve included both here so that you can judge for yourselves.

In the early 1970s, Richard Brautigan bought a house in Bolinas, California (along the coast north of San Francisco), and asked friend Keith Abbot, who owned a truck, to help him move in. Abbot gives the following account of his first day in the house.

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While I was having a look around, I wandered upstairs and found three bedrooms and a bath. The last place I looked in was the east bedroom. Set in a corner of the house, it was quite small and filled with junk, bed frames and such. As I was leaving, I turned and had the strong sensation that someone was there. In my mind’s eye, almost like a slide being placed in a projector, I saw a girl in a white nightgown. I didn’t think much of it; it was so fleeting. I assumed it was just a mild hallucination.

That night when Richard arrived, I made a joke about “Who’s the girl in the corner bedroom?”

Richard blanched. “You S-s-saw her?” he stuttered.

“Sorta, I didn’t really see, I only had a sensation,” I said, “Who is she?”

“I don’t know,” Richard said. “But you are fourth person who has seen her upstairs. You don’t know the other three who saw her, so I’ve got to believe you.”

It seemed comically right to me that there should be a ghost in the corner bedroom of Richard’s new house. . . . I thought a ghost was the perfect companion for his Northwest Gothic sensibilities to mull over. His daughter told me less benign stories about the ghost, how it would walk up and down the stairs at night and scare the hell out of her. Richard didn’t seem terribly bothered by the ghost. He was more curious than spooked by her. Later he researched the history of the house and discovered that a young girl had died there at the turn of the century. She was buried in the backyard.

Richard once offered the Bolinas house to his friend Don Carpenter, after Don’s apartment had been damaged in a fire. I helped Don collect any useable stuff from his place in San Francisco and drove him to Bolinas. I was busy unloading, when Don went into the house. He came right back out and told me to pack it up again. He refused to stay there, maintaining that the joint was haunted.  (pp. 73-74)

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Brautigan’s daughter, Ianthe, gives a slight different account of the same ghost in You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir.

Candence [Ianthe’s long-time friend] has believed the Bolinas house haunted since the first time she saw it. We were twelve years old. She took one look at the three-story Arts and Craft-style house, which was set back in a steep hillside, and quickly came to her decision. . . . She refused to go into the house. . . .

Not long after, I found out that there was a real ghost. A Chinese woman who had worked as a servant for the original owners of the house had killed herself, and some people said her spirit frequented the house. (p. 52)

She also wrote of being afraid of the ghost throughout her early teen years, but reports nothing specific.

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Tragically, Richard Brautigan took his own life in this house in 1984.

Much more about Richard Brautigan at: http://www.brautigan.net/index.html

You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Ianthe Brautigan

http://www.amazon.com/You-Cant-Catch-Death-Daughters/dp/0312264186

Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by Keith Abbot.

http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Trout-Fishing-America-Brautigan/dp/0982225229/