I have another work-in-progress. Unlike Katsuren and the Sam Ryder story, both set in Okinawa, this one features a heroine from Dubrovnik? Why there? Because I saw the most beautiful photograph of Dubrovnik, and the orange-roofed houses and jewel-colored sea looked so much like Okinawa, I could hardly believe the similarity. I started thinking about what kind of person might live beneath the tiled roof of one of those houses overlooking the coast and I thought, “Someone just like Sam–wounded by life but strong enough to re-invent herself!”

Her name is Capricia. She’s almost 40, and has already re-invented herself twice. Now she has to do it again or simply lay down and die. I’m not sure what the title of her story will be, but I already know how it ends. The working title is Destination: Dubrovnik.

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A sanshin is the musical voice of Okinawa. The instrument consists of a long, ebony neck that ends in a round sounding board about the same diameter as a volleyball. The sounding board is hollow, and covered with snakeskin on both sides. At the other end of the ebony neck are three pegs, one for each of the sanshin’s three strings.

A sanshin sounds warm and mellow. It can be played loud or soft, fast or slow. It is the perfect accompaniment to the human voice. Oddly enough, the sanshin repertoire contains mostly songs of joy or songs with uplifiting contents. I can’t think of even one song lamenting lost love or lost anything. Not even lost youth.

So it’s fitting that the hero of my new novel, a guy called Sam Ryder, should play the sanshin. He loses important parts of his life one after the other, but he never drops into lamenting mode. OK, at one point life–in the form of an attempted murder–pushes him close to demonstrating that a sanshin can also be a lethal weapon. But Sam Ryder loves life and deplores violence. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, much less a fellow human being.

Or would he?

A writer may be defined as someone who writes, but I think good writers are also people who read. I’ve been reading Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and enjoying the way he states his personal opinions without actually stating them. Can anyone not know how he felt about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda after reading the following line about Fitzgerald’s chances of becoming a great novelist?
“I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him.”
I’ve also been reading Patrick Leigh Fermor, whose talent for choosing just the right word is legendary. How about this line from a pre-WWII essay set in Germany?
“Compared to the trim, drilled figures of the few soldiers there, the Storm Troopers looked like brown-paper parcels badly tied with string.”
English! What an amazing language!

Rain or shine, never give up!

Okinawa gets a lot of rain, but it is especially conspicuous during the rainy season. Does it slow things down? Not at all. Rain, sun, it’s all part of Nature.
For this author, the rainy season is bringing the chance to go on a writing retreat. My new character, Sam Ryder of Okinawa, will benefit from the undivided attention he will be getting.
Be back in a few weeks!

When you create a fictional character, you control that character’s story life–but you have no control over what happens to her once the story is out in the world.

The heroine of my first novel, Katsuren, is a young American archeologist with long blonde hair on an island where the women are all brunettes. As one way of calling attention to her appearance without actually screaming “Look! She has long blonde hair!” I put in a scene where she is moving into a hotel room and hanging her own,terry-lined shower cap on the bathroom door because the dinky plastic ones provided by hotels don’t work for her.

This is not a major scene. But it was picked up and put out on the Internet as an advertisement for someone’s line of bath products.

My character went to Okinawa to find herself as a newly-fledged archeologist, and now she is entering a second career as an Internet huckster.

Fate is funny, fate is weird.

An excerpt from the Sam Ryder story:

Sam didn’t need a water buffalo. These days, no one needed a water buffalo. That’s why the owner of the sugar mill was giving the animal to Sam. He had electric motors to turn the cane grinders, so Mizuko was out of a job. Mizuko the water buffalo was only a link to times gone by, a piece of nostalgia who was getting on in years.

Okinawans, who ate anything that didn’t eat them first, had only one taboo concerning food. They never, ever butchered a water buffalo for its meat. Maybe these days no one needed a water buffalo, but there was a time when the animals’ muscle power was Okinawa’s salvation. As a token of gratitude, they allowed the animals their old age and a peaceful death.

Sam untethered Mizuko from the spoke of the crusher and led her to a borrowed truck. He walked her up the planks to the truck bed, and harnessed her securely. He flashed his trademark grin at the mill owner, even though he was quaking in his shoes. Mizuko was tame. She was mild. She was docile. Everyone knew there was nothing in the world more placid than a water buffalo. Sam knew it. Everyone said so, especially Mizuko’s former owner. But the facts remained. There were enormous horns only inches from his face. There were tons of animal balanced on tiny toes right next to his very own toes. Sam thought he should keep Mizuko company on the ride to her new home, but then the truck bed bucked when the driver put it in gear. Not a good idea, Sam, he told himself, knowing it was too late to change his mind.

Sam Ryder has something to love. It’s Okinawa music, as played on a three-string instrument called a sanshin. To tell the truth, I love it, too. I just earned a medal for being able to perform the fast-paced “Kana-yo” and the lovely, haunting “Uranami Bushi”. Sam doesn’t need medals, but I do. Winning one is like getting an A+ for research–the part of writing a novel that no one but you will ever know about.

Now that Katsuren has been published and is on sale, Sam Ryder can make his debut in an Okinawa love story. Sam’s American father abandoned him as a baby. He was raised by a Japanese single mother who died when he was still in high school–too young to live alone, too old to be adopted, too human to live without love.

The new edition is ready.
Look for Katsuren: An Okinawa Love Story at Amazon.com