I’m happy to be writing to you again from my writing cave back in good old Akita. Last month, I was in the US for business, but every time I go back, it reminds me how happy I am to have chosen Japan as my home.
For one thing, America does not have heated toilet seats. For another. . . well, do you really need a second reason after that?
Of course, not everything in Japan is perfect and to my liking. But I enjoy the tension of being between two cultures. I don’t really fit in perfectly with either, but that means that I get to choose the best parts. Plus, it keeps me constantly on my toes and learning. Come to think of it, that plays into my writing quite a bit!
Besides, I’m happy to be back with my family, and back to my routine. It can be particularly challenging to get any writing done on the road – especially when I’m traveling for work and they expect me (I expect me?) to work a full day on the purpose of my trip, plus keep up with all the emails from the office. Now that I’m settled in at home again, I have been able to get some writing done. I am nearing the end of my scene outline for the first book in the Breyik epic fantasy series (New Year Goal: Develop a working title), and am writing the climax scenes now. I love how the story has grown since my original idea and hope you will, too, once I finally get it into your hands.
2018 in Review
In Japan, this is the last year of the 30-year Heisei era – the current imperial reign. The emperor has announced that he will abdicate at the end of April. So nearly every conversation over the past month in Japan has been a reflection on the 30 years. 30 years ago, I think I was in first grade. I’m not going to bore you by going back that far.
But this last year has seen some significant changes for my writing and my family.
A year ago, I was working exclusively on my series of non-fiction books about the Japanese government MEXT scholarship. I thought I would try to get those out of the way as quickly as possible so that I could focus all of my time on writing fiction when I was done. With my focus on speed and production, I pushed myself too hard, and back in May, it came back to bite me. Less than two weeks before the release of the first book in the scholarship series, I got sick.
As I recovered, I reorganized my priorities. I stopped pushing myself so hard on writing and instead set a more reasonable daily minimum time. I also decided not to wait on the fiction.
(This is the part where you applaud.)
Over the summer, I picked up Breyik’s story, developed my idea for his series, and started working in earnest on the first book. I’m still writing the scholarship books at the same time, alternating between the two, but I am happy to be back on the fiction, again. Writing a satisfying story is much more challenging than writing non-fiction, but I get a lot more pleasure out of it, as well.
Since this is my first full-length work, I’m still learning a lot as I go along, so it is taking longer than I want. Of course, I never want to stop learning, but I also don’t want to leave you hanging. I can’t promise you that the book will be ready by this time next year, but I at least plan to be in the editing phase with a release date in sight. Bear with me until then!
Non-fiction is so much easier to write, and those books are clipping along. But after falling ill last year, I am not pushing at such a breakneck pace as before. Where I had initially planned to release one book every 4 months, I am not focused on one per year. That means that it will be longer before I can complete the series of seven, but at least I can work on and produce fiction in the meantime, too. Oh, and not collapse.
Perhaps the biggest change – one I’ve been sharing on the way, if you have been following – has been building our house. Again, it’s almost shocking to see how much has changed in a year. We first contacted the woman who would eventually become our architect in December of 2017 and didn’t even have a rough sketch of the house until late January. By May, we had broken ground, and in early November we had moved in. I couldn’t be happier with the new place. We have glorious, glorious insulation and the whole house is warm, unlike any other Japanese house we’ve lived in. (Counterpoint to the lack of heated toilets in the US: Most Japanese houses lack insulation. But not ours!)
Just last week, our landscapers finished the first stage of our driveway and removed the port-a-potty that had been in front of our living room window. Now, we can see the park across the street and the woods beyond. Life tip: If you ever get tired of the scenery around you, try dropping a port-a-potty in front of it for a month. Then take it away and realize how grateful you are for the new (old) view.
New Year Writing Goals
I don’t like “resolutions.” That makes it sound like I’m planning to give up by the end of January. Instead, I believe in goals – and specifically SMART goals.
- I am going to name the Breyik Series and Book 1 in the series by the end of January and share it in my next update.
- I am going to finish the second book in the scholarship series and release it by the end of February.
- I will finish the first draft of the to-be-named first book in the Breyik Series by the end of the year.
- I will read at least one book per month
- I will continue to write to you every month!
What are your goals for the next year? What are you reading and writing? Let me know in the comments below!
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