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Tokyo Meridian - Novel Blog

The Process of Finishing my Novel

Webpage launched, moving to new blog
This blog has been dead for about a year now, and I'm transferring over to my new domain at www.tokyomeridian.com. Thanks!

A busy few weeks, and notes on how to publish the book
So the last three weeks have been pure madness. I graduated law school on May 21 and toured my family around for about a week before and after that date. I also moved all my stuff down to LA for the immediate future.

Now I am about to start full on bar prep tomorrow. I will also start major revisions and editing on my completed first draft next week as well.

With so much of my future coming on quicker than I expected (isn't that always the case?) I have begun to look more and more seriously into how I plan to get this thing published. Here are a few links to blogs that I found had interesting or informative takes on the issue.

Notes on Self-Publishing


Is the eBook the new query?

Publishing Trends New Authors must Stay on top of

And finally this interesting post on pricing in the ebook market.


9:13 AM on February 9, 2011

E-book pricing

The big book publishers in New York see e-books as just another slice of the pie--they slice up the book and sell the same thing in multiple formats: hardback, trade paperback, mass market paperback, audiobook, and now e-book. The difference is that you don't OWN the the e-book; you're really leasing it, licensing it, like software--you can't sell it, you can't give it away, you can't trade it. So you, and no one else, can read it (let's set aside the issue of "loaning" temporarily.)

Given that it's really licensing and you don't own it, the cost for an e-book should be less expensive the the trade paperback. Eventually, the market will drive the publishers down. Right now, they're concerned that e-books will take away income from their bread-and-butter, the new hardback release.

Instead of adding value to their hardbacks--which they don't do--they simply charge for every OTHER version of the same thing. If they were proactive, they'd start issuing hardbacks on a NONRETURNABLE BASIS (bookstores can return anything that doesn't sell for credit to the publisher), sell at a shorter discount, and do what the movie industry has done with DVDs--add extras to make the hardback valuable: add special features, add an interview, add an e-book version with Web links, add an audio-book version, etc. (And they should, at least, bind it with sewn signatures, so the book doesn't fall apart.)

Instead, it's business as usual in NYC, so you get, for instance, Deborah Harkness's A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES for $28.95. (The e-book is $14.95. And a lot of customers are going to either not buy the e-book at that price, or buy a discounted hardback, or wait for the paperback, or go to the library, or borrow it from a friend. Viking/Penguin's sales of the e-book aren't going to be impressive; trust me.)

E-books are selling because people don't want to pay $28.95 for a one-time reading experience. How many books do you read twice? Three times? I think $2.95 is a great price, and I'd pay more, but NOT if it's simply the same book with no additional material--people need a compelling reason to pay the additional cost (as with A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES).

What I take from all of these viewpoints is a few things.

First, as I suspected, query letters are becoming a thing of the past like slush piles. If you want to get noticed you must create and publicize yourself. The market is so thin and so uncertain at this time that no publishers want to take a risk on uncertain things. However, if you do publish in the ebook market you better as hell have a plan and a website to build momentum.

Second, the most important thing in the work, topping all the bells and whistles, is making damn sure you have something worth publishing. All the recently published ebooks have flooded and diluted the market with a lot of unimpressive crud. If you write something that audiences respond to, they will buy it. So more than anything focus on the end product first, then draw out your attack plan.

Sounds good to me. Goal for the summer: Make my revisions of the novel as tight and compelling as they can possible be.

My tweets
  • Sun, 07:24: Graduated law school today! Congrats to my fellow USF School of Law Class of 2011 graduates! #onward

Updated Cover

It's amazing how accomplishing something with your hands makes you feel entirely useful and happy. There is more written on this subject than I feel like delving into, but needless to say that I "wasted" my afternoon not study, or writing for that matter, yet feel wholly satisfied by taking apart my phone and cleaning the interior of the keyboard after it stopped working this morning.


New cover, next steps

I came to the Royal Ground Coffee on California and Filmore again this Easter afternoon and created the above image, the last of what I imagine will be my ebook covers for my website. That was a nice diversion from, you know, writing-editing-studying for finals-preparing for bar exam- etc. But today was my last lazy day. I need to get a lot done in the next 30 days before I leave San Francisco.

The novel itself is much as I last left it, needing a nice second edit. I'm about half way through chapter 3, the longest in the novel, but still need to get that done so I can move on to the rest.

This coffee shop is where I wrote most of the novel this past winter and I hoped coming back here would awaken the old mojo. It didn't really, but it was nice to see how far I've come thus far in the process, and how far I still have to go.

Dead Brain
A "dead arm" in baseball refers to a point when a pitcher's arm simply gives out for a potion of the season thanks to overuse. That is how I felt this past week after a rather busy semester where I am balancing a couple of jobs all at once. Chronic fatigue might be another name for it, but whatever you want to call it I was exhausted this past week and simply could not get any work done.

I am feeling a bit better today and need to get back to editing the Second Draft.

For those of you keeping score at home:

February 2007-February 2011: First Draft Complete
March 2011-present: Second Draft

Being the superstitious person I am I don't want to finish up the query letter until I finish the second draft of After Station, the longest chapter in the novel and the "set-up" to everything that comes after. It was after finished the initial After Station draft that I realized the novel could be finished and it might even be good. It gave me the confidence for everything after, and I feel it will do the same this time.

BTW -- the only way to deal with dead arm? Pitch through it. That's what I'll be doing now with my brain, working through it.

Tokyo Meridian
Today is 4/4/2011, exactly four years from the date my novel is set. I thought this was a good time to take a break from finals/re-edits and describe the novel itself.

TOKYO MERIDIAN follows the journey of a Tokyo commuter train that disappears in an underground tunnel and emerges in a terrifying otherworld that tests the resolve of the passengers to survive by bringing their greatest fears to life over the course of nine deadly way stations. The novel focuses on Rodrigo Cantu, a young American expat who has never built a real relationship in his life, and the bond that develops between him and Saori Yamazai, a mysterious Tokyo native with walls built high enough around her heart to dwarf even his own. That bond is the only thing powerful enough to overcome the unknown force guiding their journey, and may be the only hope any of the passengers have of returning home again.

The stations the train stops at vary from beautiful mountain peaks to foggy deadlands that force the passengers to re-live their darkest memories. The passangers themselves are an electric cross-section of modern Japanese society: from salarymen in suits to dolled-up housewives, uniformed schoolgirls, tech nerds, and orange tanned fashionistas.

I consider it a supernatural thriller with heavy romantic elements. The novel was born from an idea I had waiting for my train to work when I was working as in English teacher in Chiba-ken, near Tokyo, in 2007. It is heavily inspired by three works of fiction -- the inner journey of main character from NUMBER9DREAM by David Mitchell, the character interactions of THE LONG WALK by Stephen King, and the cinematic action set pieces of JURASSIC PARK the film as directed by Stephen Spielberg.

I completed my rough manuscript in February of this year and am now working on the edits. The first two chapters have their First Edit complete and are nearly ready to be be posted on here. The rest I hope to finish in the upcoming weeks.

Wordless Art
I don't know about other writers, but music has always been key for me in the process. It helps to focus my mind and unlock the pathways that lead to creative success.

Here is some of the music that helped inspire my first novel, TOKYO MERIDIAN.

Reckoner - Radiohead

This was one of the first pieces of music to inspire the overall tone of the novel in August 2008 when I started law school and began attacking the first chapter of the novel in full force. I like the haunted melody to the song, especially in how it creates a distance of real, shrouded space.

shook - Emancipator

Emancipator's first album "soon it will be cold enough to snow" was one of the real driving forces behind the fall of 2008 through summer of 2009 period when I wrote out the first three chapters and really began shaping and building the structure of the novel. I love how he plays with beats and mixes more modern sounds with traditional East Asian instruments. This song stuck with me the most with its undercurrent of energy running under a slower surface melody.

Sanctuary - Nomak

Nomak, a disciple of the genius nujabes, tends to be hit or miss for me...but this one is beyond hit. This is a grand slam outside the park and around the world. This one works on every level, and kept me motivated during the difficult editing processes of the early chapters and long lulls when I simply had no time to write between 2009 and 2010. The spine of the novel was conceived from this song.

JOZ - DJ Whitesmith

Pretty much everything this man does blows me away, but this song more than other was repeating on my play list over January 2011 when I completed the bulk of the first draft of the novel, chapters 4-10. It just flows. It's wordless art. I just let my mind go and ran with the natural rhythm provided from this song that all good writing has.

Solar Sailer - Daft Punk for the movie TRON

A few other movie themes and trailer music were in the playlist cocktail for the January and February 2011 writing blowouts, but this was the one that put me over the top and helped me finish the difficult final chapters in February. I actually heard it first in the Boarders cafe I was writing in and had to ask what it was. I love the space and distance it creates. There is a sadness there, but also a hint of wonder just beyond the shoreline. That is what I needed to to end this novel.

Bells Ringing in Tohoku
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind.

Since I finished the novel I've been swamped with work and schoolwork to finish up now that I'm less than two months away from graduating from law school. Also, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the northern Tohoku region of Japan a few days before my birthday, unleashing a freakishly powerful tsunami and leading to the release of radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear power facility.

Japan has clearly been heavy on my mind since the first earthquake struck. I checked in on all my friends in Japan. Most are based in Tokyo and did not suffer the brunt of the disaster like their neighbors did to the north, other than a seemingly never ending string of aftershocks.

All of that has me looking back at the complete first draft of the novel. Some parts, according to a friend in Osaka who has read about half the book, were very true to life. The novel is not about a major disaster striking Japan. Rather, it is about a major disaster striking a single commuter train in Japan and how people aboard deal with his abrupt happenstance. I guess you can say its a microcosm of something much larger. The idea was inspired by Japan's past -- which in itself is filled with adversity and the will to overcome and adapt to a brave new world. I am sure that is what will happen in the coming months across the nation. I can't wait to return to the country later this year and do my part to help out.

As for the novel itself I am in the middle of a re-read. Several sections, especially the earlier character building ones, are in the need of some body work. Later chapters flow much better and maybe just need a new slap of paint here and there. I need to find time to get it done soon.

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