One of the minor threads in my novel, Katsuren, concerns the discovery of a rocky structure submerged a few meters off the coast of Yonaguni, in Okinawa. It is darkly fascinating to think about something that once was above the waterline now being submerged. One always asks, Why? How? Isostatic rebound is one answer. Here is what Kevin Hester has to say about isostatic rebound.

Kevin Hester

“One example of where relatively small changes to geological stress can have a big impact on volcanic activity is the Pavlov volcano in Alaska. As McGuire describes, this volcano only erupts during Autumn and Winter. At that time storms ride up into a nearby ocean zone, pushing an average 10cm or 15cm rise in sea level. The added weight of the water is enough to torque the crust and push magma out. Now imagine the kind of extra volcanic activity that could result from 1, 6, or 250 feet of global sea level rise under the raging rate of human-caused warming and you begin to understand the concern.”We have let the Genie out of the bottle, It will never be the same again. 6C will melt most if not the entire ice caps. imagine how much ‘Torgue’ that will put on the plates?
Another great link from Robertscribbler

“Between about…

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Tired of clichés? Here are some Japanese proverbs to borrow, just to make conversation a little bit more exotic.

 

Why stop someone from comparing apples and oranges when you can shrug enigmatically and say, “The moon and snapping turtles”?  (tsuki to suppon)

Don’t urge someone to be practical; simply say, “Dumplings outweigh flowers.”  (hana yori dango)

You can encourage people to smile and be nice, or you can say “No one shoots arrows at happy faces.”  (warau kao ni ya tatazu)

Milk and cookies go together.  Salt and pepper complement each other.  How about “Plum trees and nightingales”?  (ume ni uguisu)

Have you seen the dragon motif on a certain brand of Japanese beer?  That’s a “kirin”.  You can call a young person with a bright future a rising star, or you can call him/her “dragon pup”.  (kirin ji) 

One more! 

Why say “many a slip between the cup and the lip” when you could say, “Even when they’re winning, samurai keep their helmets on.”  (katte kabuto no o wo shimeyo)

There is a scene in the novel in which the newly-fledged archeologist Karen Holt sees Katsuren castle for the first time.  Her guide tells her that coins and pottery from far away often turn up at the site.  This past September, the two most unusual finds ever turned up, for real.  One was a coin from Turkey’s golden age.  The other was a coin from ancient Rome.  I was thrilled to have this new corroboration of the real Katsuren’s place in the world centuries ago.

When the world is round, any point you choose can be the center around which events happen.

What a thrill it was to be invited to speak at a symposium held in Okinawa and dedicated to literature set in Okinawa and written by American authors!  I am very grateful for the recognition.

Katsuren was one of five novels discussed by university professors and seasoned critics.  Of the novels discussed, the one closest to my heart was one I read ages and ages ago–Tea House of the August Moon” by Vern Sneider.  It was the first post-WWII story set in Okinawa, and took a very light-hearted point of view of the war.  You could almost classify it with the “screwball comedies” that were popular at the time.  What I liked was that the critic, Larry McCaffery, looked beyond the fluff and called it “a dream within a nightmare”.  Okinawa at that time (1945) was certainly a nightmare.  The author, according to Mr. McCaffery, wrote about his dream for Okinawa’s rebirth, not the squalor he actually witnessed.

Writing about what is witnessed is news reporters’ work.  Putting dreams into words is what I believe is the work of novelists.  I applaud the alternative vision of Okinawa created by the author, Mr. Sneider.  Imagine what the island could have become if economic development powered by culture and genuine human needs had been allowed to flourish instead of turning one fifth of this Eden into a military complex.

Katsuren, too, has an alternative to offer.  If you have already read it, you know that the underlying theme is a modern love story between an American archeologist and an Okinawan news reporter.  The female lead is the American; the male lead character is the Okinawan.  I loved that the moderator of the symposium, Mr. Yukinori Tokuyama, caught on to the significance of these roles.

I recast the image of American/Okinawan romantic relationships, and I did it because, as Mr. Tokuyama suggested, I believe it is time to recast the American/Okinawan political relationship.  Wouldn’t it be a lovely 100th birthday present to author Vern Sneider to give his vision of an Okinawa for Okinawans a chance?

 

An eggplant and a cucumber, each supported on four thin sticks, used to be a common sight on the corners of dusty lanes in Tokyo in mid-August.  The cucumber–long, thin, and gracefully curved–and the eggplant–squat and blocky–played a special role in August’s day of remembrance, also known as “o-bon”.

O-bon is the day that deceased ancestor’s spirits get to return to their old homes for a visit.  A feast is laid, candles are lit, and incense scents the air.  All is ready!

But…

Depending on how long the ancestor has been gone, the geography of the old home town may have changed.  The spirits might lose their way.  And the spirits, who have only this one chance, may be in a hurry to arrive at the celebration.

Voila!  Transportation!

The elongated cucumber on its four strong legs represents a horse, to carry the ancestors to their party in style.  The stubby cucumber is a powerful ox, to carry them home from the party–laden with gifts and memories–slowly, perhaps reluctantly.

No one puts out cucumbers and eggplants anymore, but if you happen to pass an open window, you might still catch the scent of incense, honoring those who have gone before us.

The sense of sight is so precious, I wanted to take time out to see the world through new eyes–a painter’s eyes.  Instead of drafts of stories I have been creating sketchbooks.  This is life imitating art.  One of my characters, Karen, from the novel Katsuren, always travels with a sketchbook.  Surely that idea came from a part of myself I needed to get in touch with.  So, about 20 filled sketchbooks later, I think it’s time for me to return to the world of words.

Was it a “paint it black” sort of day? Maybe the kind of day when you can all but hear the chimes pealing “Joy to the World”?
When I’m not working on a story, I’m writing in my journal. I love this tip from G. Lynn Nelson: “Keep your words grounded in your five senses. How did it look, feel, smell, taste, sound?”
You don’t have to explain if you paint a scene fully with juicy words.

In Paperwork (by Celine Nisaragi), the protagonist’s personality came from a combination of traits taken from my cat, my grandmother, and a pop singer. What about the other characters? Not one is taken directly from real life. So, where do they come from?

Another way to create a character is to think of a topic that you have strong opinions about. You can create a character who becomes your personal soapbox. Let them model your feelings about that topic. Let them rant and rave. Give them an opening, and let them riff on your hot-button topic.

In Paperwork, Sergeant Denny Dugan ends up in the hospital, and I’m the one who put him there. Love him or hate him, Sergeant Dugan is in Paperwork because I have a hot-button topic that he illustrates perfectly.

I just published my second novel (Paperwork, by Celine Nisaragi). It got started during a free, online course in how to write a novel. Creating the lead character was so much fun, and not done the way I expected.

Most people, if they are like me, believe the lead character is modeled after yourself or after someone you know. T’ain’t so. Not in a good story. Why? Because you will run head on into the wall of “so-and-so would never do that” or fall over the cliff of “but it didn’t happen that way in real life”. So, what do you do?

You choose three people that interest you, take three characteristics from them that you find fascinating, and create your character from those elements.

I chose (1) my cat– for its graceful movement, the comfort it feels in its own skin, and its ability to shrug off stress.
(2) My grandmother–I admired how she could talk to anyone, anywhere, and hold her own. I especially admired her uncanny knack of knowing who in her circle needed her help and her genuine concern for other people’s well being. She was down-to-Earth practical, grew her own food, and could cook amazing dishes out of anything she had to hand.
(3) A folk singer I know who has had a long, successful career and cannot read a note of music. He raises enormous sums of money, then gives it away without a second thought to human rights causes. He is getting on in years, but moves and acts like a much younger man.

You’ll find all of these qualities in Paperwork’s heroine, Cheryl Markovic Dugan. The paperback book is up on Amazon. If you don’t mind waiting, the Kindle version will be up in a few more weeks. The “look inside” feature (free chapter!) should kick in any day now.

While you’re waiting, maybe you would enjoy creating your own fictional hero using the above technique.

My favorite writing guru, Donald Maass (“The Fire in Fiction”) had a suggestion: think of something that ticks you off, then have one of your characters riff on the subject. What ticks me off? Paperwork!

Paperwork is now the title of a novel starring the character Cheryl Markovic Dugan, a war bride from Dubrovnik abandoned in the US by her soldier husband. As a single mother struggling to hold on to her job as a night aide in a nursing home, Cheryl believes the ability to cope with paperwork is an over-rated skill. The only thing she really needs to read, she insists, is the human heart. Her formula works until the medical director of the home taps her to care for his aging mother, a retired high school English teacher. Cheryl pits her belief in intuition against the older woman’s insistence that, to succeed in life, you have to learn to read the fine print.

Paperwork will be published from my personal publishing empire, Turquoise Cat Books, next month.