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Shisendo
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 8:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Don't know how I missed this debate the last few days. Based on past experience, I'm always hesitant to join in late, but as an aspiring writer with an opinion I just. Can't. Stop. Myself. From commenting.

1) I think contests like the one SA Forums offers are welcome and necessary. They provide a deadline to aim toward and guarantee a readership familiar with and interested in the milieu. Generally speaking, the overall quality should improve year over year. Even if one year leads to a "best of the worst" pick, that is only likely to motivate non-participants to contribute the next year.

2) Writers always talk about each other's work in a different way than readers do. I could try explain all the rules of engagement, but the dynamics are just too intricate.

3) Even as a non-entrant, I am interested in reading the stories. The only reason I haven't yet is that I once went searching through this thread for the links, not realizing they were posted on a separate thread until today. Commenting is another story. I would rather not offer an opinion unless invited to by the writer. See my response to Mikeruart's request for feedback for the type of response I provide.

http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=3169

3) Like most people, I am short on time. If you would like me to comment on your story, I would like to ask as a return favor that you read and share your thoughts on at least one chapter of my Sengoku/Edo Jidai manuscript that I am currently submitting to publishers.

Chapter 1


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Shisendo wrote:
Don't know how I missed this debate the last few days. Based on past experience, I'm always hesitant to join in late, but as an aspiring writer with an opinion I just. Can't. Stop. Myself. From commenting.

1) I think contests like the one SA Forums offers are welcome and necessary. They provide a deadline to aim toward and guarantee a readership familiar with and interested in the milieu. Generally speaking, the overall quality should improve year over year. Even if one year leads to a "best of the worst" pick, that is only likely to motivate non-participants to contribute the next year.

2) Writers always talk about each other's work in a different way than readers do. I could try explain all the rules of engagement, but the dynamics are just too intricate.

3) Even as a non-entrant, I am interested in reading the stories. The only reason I haven't yet is that I once went searching through this thread for the links, not realizing they were posted on a separate thread until today. Commenting is another story. I would rather not offer an opinion unless invited to by the writer. See my response to Mikeruart's request for feedback for the type of response I provide.

http://forums.samurai-archives.com/viewtopic.php?t=3169

3) Like most people, I am short on time. If you would like me to comment on your story, I would like to ask as a return favor that you read and share your thoughts on at least one chapter of my Sengoku/Edo Jidai manuscript that I am currently submitting to publishers.

http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=523


I have been reading your book. I cannot comment with the precision of more learned members on this thread. I can say what I have read made me go to each following chapter. Despite admonishments not to use Japanese words, I think that anyone who will read any kind of Japanese fiction is not going to be put off by a peppering of Japanese. The trick of how much is basically an opinion of what readers are willing to accept. To appeal to a wide range of people who may not neccessarily know much about Japanese history is IMHO something that the author may know beter than the historian. I liked your book and want to read all of it. Very Happy

I think that skillfull writing trancends genres.I have been going back to what worked in all genres and trying to reduce or distill how it worked.I think yours works fine. When you get a publisher I will like to read it. I liked the description of the writing characters having three demensions. I liked the realationship of the distant father who portrays the aloofness of what has been my impression of the model of samurai sentiment toward family. How true that is would be another thread but its works well for me Wink

I wish you might submit something for the next contest. "Once a Samurai has experienced battle..." perhaps that a paraphrase but you get the allusion

On my own humble submissions, I think that in general if they are remarkable then someone would have remarked without prompting. Rolling Eyes I will welcome anyone's opinions however. Rip it up! My over inflated Charlie Brownesque big-headedness(pig-headed?) will cushion my ego when I fall to the sufferage of such slings and arrows Razz
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A.L.Mundell wrote:
Despite admonishments not to use Japanese words, I think that anyone who will read any kind of Japanese fiction is not going to be put off by a peppering of Japanese. The trick of how much is basically an opinion of what readers are willing to accept. To appeal to a wide range of people who may not neccessarily know much about Japanese history is IMHO something that the author may know beter than the historian.


You have to ask yourself if you'd be willing to read a book like this:

Joe removed the kizuwapinaku from it's tookleflib. His sense of kizzleplix forbade him from joining the ceremony of chipnuk.

"Choobinog, my fichniggle", he said to the karnopix standing before him. "Although I am unable to join the ceremony of chipnuk, I present you with my kizuwapinaku." Joe set the tookleflib aside, and hefted the kizuwapinaku. The nookiepie karnopix took the curled kizuwapinaku in hand, and bowed deeply.

"Joe, my fichniggle, let me present you with a parpangoogle in return for the kizuwapinaku, let it protect you, and give you shchlopinkijabu during your journey", the karnopix said.

"Kijumung, but I can't accept this. It would dishonor the tenets of chipnuk." Joe cast his gaze on the karnopix, and shook his head sadly.

"Chizzlepukizzle, Joe, and izzlemud. We shall meet again." The karnopix said, adjusting his yazzmatazz absently.



Does that help illustrate the concept? This has nothing at all to do with the book linked - I haven't read it. Just illustrating how obnoxious and annoying foreign words are when they are "peppered". If the meaning isn't somewhat obvious, it becomes a game of "guess the meaning", and no one reads a novel to play that game.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Gozen: after your visit to Kurama, I know that your writings about Shanao/Yoshitsune will be outstanding. Because now that you've seen the country, you know exactly what it looks like.


Looks like, smells like, feels like, thinks like...there's nothing like going the place you're trying to image in words. This is something I probably won't be able to do for a long time...anyone here know the term "genius loci," meaning the "spirit of a place?" That visit to Kurama probably put you in touch with it, gozen...it looks like an evocative place, waterfall of trees, and the roots like veins of an organism that may just breed Tengu in its depths...oh yes, thanks for the pix, Obenjo!
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A.L. Mundell: Thanks for reading and offering feedback. I look forward to getting to your story. I like to think of myself as a balanced critic, so don't worry about getting torn up! Still, it's always a relief to hear that the elephant hide is on.

Kitsuno: I got a good chuckle from your post on the use of foreign words. Well done. I think the author has to ensure that a) the meaning is clear from the context and b) that using the foreign word adds an essential element that would be lost in the translation. Otherwise, it just looks like the author is showing off.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
A.L.Mundell wrote:
Despite admonishments not to use Japanese words, I think that anyone who will read any kind of Japanese fiction is not going to be put off by a peppering of Japanese. The trick of how much is basically an opinion of what readers are willing to accept. To appeal to a wide range of people who may not neccessarily know much about Japanese history is IMHO something that the author may know beter than the historian.


You have to ask yourself if you'd be willing to read a book like this:

Joe removed the tookleflib from it's kizuwapinaku. His sense of kizzleplix forbade him from joining the ceremony of chipnuk.

"Choobinog, my fichniggle", he said to the karnopix standing before him. "Although I am unable to join the ceremony of chipnuk, I present you with my tookleflib." Joe set the kizuwapinaku aside, and hefted the tookleflib. The nookiepie karnopix took the curled kizuwapinaku in hand, and bowed deeply.

"Joe, my fichniggle, let me present you with a parpangoogle in return for the kizuwapinaku, let it protect you, and give you shchlopinkijabu during your journey", the karnopix said.

"Kijumung, but I can't accept this. It would dishonor the tenets of chipnuk." Joe cast his gaze on the karnopix, and shook his head sadly.

"Chizzlepukizzle, Joe, and izzlemud. We shall meet again." The karnopix said, adjusting his yazzmatazz absently.



Does that help illustrate the concept? This has nothing at all to do with the book linked - I haven't read it. Just illustrating how obnoxious and annoying foreign words are when they are "peppered". If the meaning isn't somewhat obvious, it becomes a game of "guess the meaning", and no one reads a novel to play that game.


While your example is wonderful I think people will infer a lot of things from the context but yes, I agree an over abundance of them is distracting, one might even say, to borrow an adjective, "Clavellian".

In my own case I realize that I used words that may have simply indicated that I knew something about it rather than polishing the blade to the proper sheen with a word that would have conveyed the same or better meaning in English.

Since I know from previous threads that you do like Shogun; That is a novel that can be picked apart technically and yet it certainly went beyond its scope of people who would have understood all aspects of it. Perhaps "peppered" gives the false idea that the Japanese words are randomly dispersed to give flavor to the story. I have looked and found all kinds of words in it from all kinds of languages used that give no explanation of what they mean and yet we may infer what they are and simply keep reading.

Example: Page 23, book 1 Omi san says "Nani Goto Da!" and repeats this several times to everyone loudly when he is trying to restore order. When I first read the book as a youngster I did not know what "nani" meant but was able to infer he was asking "what the hell is going on!?"

Example: Page 43 book 1 Blackthorne says "Que Va! first translate what I said!" It does not halt us from continuing to read.

Example: Prologue, Hendrik says " Always ahead! Gotthimmel! It wasn't in our orders to travel into the unknown" Can we guess that gotthimmel is an expletive or exclamtion? Part of the story of Shogun is a travel into a witches cauldron of conflicting cultures and I realize that in some of these instances it may help in the use of such words to convey the uncomfortable feeling of Anjinsans' xenophobia, but my point is that as a writer you have to assume a certain amount of sensibilty about the reader.

Now I use this example because I have heard people say their are too many errors in it, Clavell takes liberties, his Japanese is horrible excetera, but its a page turner. I can't tell you everything that is wrong with it but I can say with certainty that I loved it. In fact it's directly responsible for the first blip on the radar screen of Asian Culture. I saw the movie, then wanted to read the book. A big difference in ages now but the readability of it is still there.

I am hoping to avoid obvious mistakes by shutting my mouth and opening my ears and brain, that is why I am here Shocked . Sometimes I admit I have a problem doing that but I also respectfully think that many times those in the know are incapable of distancing their judgements from the mountains of knowledge they have accended. I read your example and will never forget it. If I cannot use the word without awkward expostion or inference then look again.

It seems that the only thing that generated any interest was meant to be irreverant so I will submit another exploit of "Buke Wanabe" if it makes it past approval of the chracatures involved. Laughing
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The problem with your analogy vis-a-vis Clavell is that a) I think Clavell expected that, when he was writing, things like 'Gottinhimmel' or 'Que Va' would be fairly transparent to someone with sufficient education, and b) many of the Japanese phrases, as I recall them, are used to put the reader in the place of his main (European) character and thus are supposed to be strange and foreign.

When you are trying to convey the problems of communicating between different cultures, or indicating an accent, etc., then using foreign words often works positively.

If I wrote the following:

"Womenfanche!" the dashi shouted, then wolfed down his fan. Around him, other men of the zhou also began to use their kueizi to rush the fancai to their mouths.

?!?

On the other hand, if I wrote something like this:

The proprietor turned on Joe, who still held the broken shards of Ming pottery in his hands. "Gwailou! What do you think you are doing? You will ruin me! Get out, now!"

I don't think you need to translate either 'Ming' or 'Guailou'. You really can't translate 'Ming' in this instance ("the broken shards of 14th~17th century Chinese pottery"?? There is no simple word or phrase to replace 'Ming' in this context). 'Guailou' (sp?) can be used because the proprietor is speaking English, but peppering it with Chinese.


All that said, I think there are some things you can use, if it is important. For instance, if it is important to distinguish a downward slung sword v. a sword worn blade up, you might want to describe 'tachi' v. 'katana' early in the story so you can then use them later.

And for the words that are on the edge (dojo, kendo, katana, karate, judo...) the general rule of thumb is "if you can find it in an English dictionary, it counts as an English word." That doesn't mean your audience will understand it, just that it is considered more acceptable because it has entered English parlance.

Finally, you can always throw this rule out. But if you do, and people don't like what you've written because of it, you have to consider if you are obtaining your desired reaction or not.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A.L.Mundell wrote:

Since I know from previous threads that you do like Shogun; That is a novel that can be picked apart technically and yet it certainly went beyond its scope of people who would have understood all aspects of it. Perhaps "peppered" gives the false idea that the Japanese words are randomly dispersed to give flavor to the story. I have looked and found all kinds of words in it from all kinds of languages used that give no explanation of what they mean and yet we may infer what they are and simply keep reading.

Example: Page 23, book 1 Omi san says "Nani Goto Da!" and repeats this several times to everyone loudly when he is trying to restore order. When I first read the book as a youngster I did not know what "nani" meant but was able to infer he was asking "what the hell is going on!?"

Example: Page 43 book 1 Blackthorne says "Que Va! first translate what I said!" It does not halt us from continuing to read.

Example: Prologue, Hendrik says " Always ahead! Gotthimmel! It wasn't in our orders to travel into the unknown" Can we guess that gotthimmel is an expletive or exclamtion? Part of the story of Shogun is a travel into a witches cauldron of conflicting cultures and I realize that in some of these instances it may help in the use of such words to convey the uncomfortable feeling of Anjinsans' xenophobia, but my point is that as a writer you have to assume a certain amount of sensibilty about the reader.

Now I use this example because I have heard people say their are too many errors in it, Clavell takes liberties, his Japanese is horrible excetera, but its a page turner. I can't tell you everything that is wrong with it but I can say with certainty that I loved it. In fact it's directly responsible for the first blip on the radar screen of Asian Culture. I saw the movie, then wanted to read the book. A big difference in ages now but the readability of it is still there.

I think you've missed the boat on this.

Has it ever occurred to you that Clavell wanted the reader to feel the confusion that Blackthorne was experiencing by not being able to understand what was being spoken to him? This is why there is such an abundance of sentences completely in Japanese in the first half of the book. The amount of Japanese used starts to fade away as Blackthorne learns the language. This was a brilliant move by Clavell, if you ask me.

And peppering one's sentence with Japanese does not mean that somebody's writing is 'Clavellian'. That's not the point at all.

'Gotthimmel' while not totally necessary, is there as a marker in the prologue to reinforce to us readers that Blackthorne is the sole Englishman among a crew of Dutch. He's an outsider among a group of 'foreigners', if you will, and as this is done to foreshadow the ultimate feeling of being an 'outsider' once the ship reaches Japan. You don't have to be a rocket scientist, or speak Dutch or even German, to figure out that 'Gotthimmel' means 'God in heaven'.

As for 'Que va' --it's there just to remind the reader that Blackthorne is talking to a Portuguese Jesuit, but yeah, it's not necessary.

Also, I'm delighted to see you've really taken all of our points on spelling and grammar so seriously. It shows beautifully in your above post. Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Shisendo wrote:
Like most people, I am short on time. If you would like me to comment on your story, I would like to ask as a return favor that you read and share your thoughts on at least one chapter of my Sengoku/Edo Jidai manuscript that I am currently submitting to publishers.

http://www.authonomy.com/ViewBook.aspx?bookid=523
I just got through reading your chapters. The style is quite clear and for me, easily understood. Your main character is rather unusual and I look forward to reading more.

Just curious: how have your submission adventures gone? Is there any interest in historical Japanese fiction for an English-speaking audience?
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
I just got through reading your chapters. The style is quite clear and for me, easily understood. Your main character is rather unusual and I look forward to reading more.

Just curious: how have your submission adventures gone? Is there any interest in historical Japanese fiction for an English-speaking audience?


Thanks Wave Tossed. I remember you had a look at an earlier version when I first joined here. I'm looking forward to checking out The Street Sweeper. I just finished the MS in August so I've only received one agent reject so far. I'm preparing packages for two publishers to send out over the holidays.

My general sense is that historical Japanese fiction is perceived as a niche market, despite the popular success of books like Shogun and Memoirs of a Geisha, even The Otori series for that matter. For every success, there seems to be at least one that slips away without much recognition, so the publishers' risk aversion is understandable. Personally, I have shifted my focus from mainstream to specialist publishers with large lists of Japanese books. I'll find out in the new year if there is any interest.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Here is my critique of Ghostmind of Tomoe. I intentionally didn't read any of the previous critiques of this one that have been posted here (or the others before I posted them) so I don't get swayed in any direction. I'm going to be pretty candid, so I advise you tighten your helmet straps.

Mechanics son, mechanics. Although there are a few "gems among flowers" in the story (or was it flowers among gems....), the spelling, word usage, and sentence structure occasionally borders on the outright horrendous. Between the occasional misspellings, the occasional severe run on sentences: ("To the South, distant lanterns glowed softly against the night from Kamakura as the funeral procession made its way to the small shrine overlooking the women’s' temple built to honor in death the amazing life of their most recent Abbess." etc - Onnamusha had the same issue) and the horrid cliches used as metaphor, not to mention the ridiculous problem of chronic catachresis that is not appropriate for anything beyond slapstick farcical comedy writing ("catachresis" being: Figure of association in which a highly unusual or outlandish comparison is made between two things. - Hats off to Tony for that one). Also there is a lot of inappropriate use of Japanese (almost like you are Stuart "Look what I can do!") Throwing in random Japanese terms just ends up looking goofy if not done correctly, and sadly, in your case, the majority (but not every time) it failed miserably. It does work when you follow the Japanese word by a comma, and then the English definition. You also had various issues with incorrect usage of english words as well.

The mechanics of writing come down to this: Let's say that one day, Leonardo DaVinci and I sit down to have lunch. His buddy Jim says to us, "Hey guys, why don't you both paint a picture of that landscape over there?" Leo and I think that's a great idea, so we both paint the identical landscape. Thing is, when we're done, his is a priceless masterpiece sold at Christie's Auction House for 11 million dollars, but mine, which is a painting of the exact same thing, is barely fit to use as liner for caged puppies at petland. The mechanics of writing are the foundation - the medium that expresses your whole idea, just like brush strokes, a critical eye, and knowledge of colors and painting are critical for creating a good painting. Grammar and spelling DO matter in writing. In fact, they matter MORE than the plot or characters. Which would you prefer to look through - a mud-streaked window or a clean window, from the private VIP booth at a sporting event? The painting ability in the first example, and the window in the second example are equivalent to writing mechanics. You might have the best idea for the Great American Novel since William Faulkner, but if you can't string together coherent sentences, it's garbage.

Ever hear "start at the start"? In writing, spelling and grammar is the start. If you can't add 2+2, algebra is just a pipe dream. If you can't spell, or avoid clunky, weak, or grammatically ruined sentences, same thing. Pipe Dream City, next left.

Basically, the story is not bad at all, but the mechanics and the abusive use of crazy cliched and mixed metaphor throughout really tossed a cold, wet blanket on the whole thing. The dialogue was, for lack of a better term, bad. Real goofy. But, as the judges stated during the judging, the story is completely salvageable, with some solid editing, it could pretty much be fixed to perfection.

Don't forget, you need to crawl before you can walk, and walk before running. To put it in arthurian terms, you leapt from the womb full of glorious kangaroo enthusiasm, and ended with a short, mad dash into the wall across the room. Walk son, walk! Learn HOW to write.

You need to fix your mechanics and find your writing style. This probably looks just plain negative, but it is meant to be instructive. I took a half hour out of my day to write it, so if you can attempt to get something from it, it would be much appreciated. I will not accept "Oh, that's just personal preference" or "Oh, that's just an opinion, but my way is right" anymore. If you can't see the validity of what I've written, you are already lost like a sad velvet baby seal floating on a grandiose chunk of frosty ocean ice in the glowing antarctic during the seasonal melt.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
! Shocked ! Thank You,I am going to print that.

Wow! It sure got warm in here. In fact cutting to the quick is what I was after. I think I lost a finger or two this time. Ouch! It will inspire me more than dissuade me. Wink The Tribe has Spoken
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Shisendo wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
I just got through reading your chapters. The style is quite clear and for me, easily understood. Your main character is rather unusual and I look forward to reading more.

Just curious: how have your submission adventures gone? Is there any interest in historical Japanese fiction for an English-speaking audience?


Thanks Wave Tossed. I remember you had a look at an earlier version when I first joined here. I'm looking forward to checking out The Street Sweeper. I just finished the MS in August so I've only received one agent reject so far. I'm preparing packages for two publishers to send out over the holidays.

My general sense is that historical Japanese fiction is perceived as a niche market, despite the popular success of books like Shogun and Memoirs of a Geisha, even The Otori series for that matter. For every success, there seems to be at least one that slips away without much recognition, so the publishers' risk aversion is understandable. Personally, I have shifted my focus from mainstream to specialist publishers with large lists of Japanese books. I'll find out in the new year if there is any interest.
I just finished a novel. It's historical fiction, with elements of fantasy in it. I'm passing it around to a few chosen people for critiques and editing. I've been previously published in fantasy/SF markets. So I might aim my novel more for the "historical fantasy" market.

As for The Street Sweeper, I've started my novelized version of this tale. This one is definitely fantasy, as it features ghosts and spirits -- a ghost is one of the main viewpoint characters. Both my short story and my novelized version are highly speculative -- there truly isn't a whole lot of information out there about those in outcast groups in historical times.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
As for The Street Sweeper, I've started my novelized version of this tale. This one is definitely fantasy, as it features ghosts and spirits -- a ghost is one of the main viewpoint characters. Both my short story and my novelized version are highly speculative -- there truly isn't a whole lot of information out there about those in outcast groups in historical times.


One of the historians that Thomas Conlan recommended, Daniel V Botsman, has written quite a lot about outcasts and their position in society in Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan. He takes issue with Ooms' view that their treatment constituted "state racism" and suggests "to reduce the historically specific patterns of discrimination faced by the outcasts to the modern issue of "racism" only serves to confuse and obscure an already complex issue." He gives a lot of sources in the bibliography but they are almost all in Japanese. I think it would be worth taking a look: he's a very good writer and has some excellent insights into the way outcasts were positioned in Tokugawa society.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
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My general sense is that historical Japanese fiction is perceived as a niche market,


In the last few years there have been a handful of historical novels based on Japanese history that have been well received and done quite well in the market. Ones that I've read or looked at are:
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
The Pure Land by Alan Spence (based on the Nagasaki arms merchant Thomas Glover)
Commander Perry's Minstrel Show by Richard Wiley
The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer

Strangely enough they are all set in the bakumatsu. Apart from The Last Concubine they are all in some way concerned with interaction between Westerners and Japanese (and The Last Concubine may be, but I only read the first couple of chapters). I have a feeling Western readers find this sort of plot more accessible. It's interesting to note that these authors are all well-established in in various fields of writing; Matsuoka I think came out of the creative writing school at Hawaii University, and the novels would all be described as literary rather than mass market. One strategy with submissions to publishers is to find an editor who has already published something similar to your book - at least he or she will look on Japanese material favourably.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
Quote:
My general sense is that historical Japanese fiction is perceived as a niche market,


In the last few years there have been a handful of historical novels based on Japanese history that have been well received and done quite well in the market. Ones that I've read or looked at are:
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
The Pure Land by Alan Spence (based on the Nagasaki arms merchant Thomas Glover)
Commander Perry's Minstrel Show by Richard Wiley
The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer

Strangely enough they are all set in the bakumatsu. Apart from The Last Concubine they are all in some way concerned with interaction between Westerners and Japanese (and The Last Concubine may be, but I only read the first couple of chapters). I have a feeling Western readers find this sort of plot more accessible. It's interesting to note that these authors are all well-established in in various fields of writing; Matsuoka I think came out of the creative writing school at Hawaii University, and the novels would all be described as literary rather than mass market. One strategy with submissions to publishers is to find an editor who has already published something similar to your book - at least he or she will look on Japanese material favourably.
There are two key points here. One is "interaction between Westerners and Japanese." I truly wonder about this; this has been a burning issue in discussions about films and TV shows -- is the obligatory Westerner truly necessary? It seems that most marketers seem to think so, that a historical film/TV show/novel about Japan won't sell to Western audiences unless there are Western characters included in it.

Which is interesting because about a year ago, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY had a poll of "Best Action Films of All Time." The film SEVEN SAMURAI finished 6th in the polling, ahead of all of the various remakes (including MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) and ahead of films like THE LAST SAMURAI. SEVEN SAMURAI is an older film, in Japanese with no Westerner characters in it. And yet the largely American audience of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY saw fit to rate this film quite high. So I have a few doubts that an obligatory Western character is needed in order for a historical Japanese novel/film/TV show to sell to Western audiences. However, it seems that American film/TV/fiction marketers still hold onto the view that an obligatory Western character is needed.

The other important point you make is "well-established." Especially in these economic times, mainstream publishers are reluctant to take a chance with a new author. So that is why I am aiming my works toward various smaller "niche" publishers for now.

As for the situation with outcasts, I'll have to check out Botsman's book. This debate about whether treatment of outcast populations constitutes "racism" or not has been burning for a while. The Ooms book is valuable for the documented incidents and sources that he provides.

There is another book, JAPAN'S INVISIBLE RACE: CASTE AND CULTURE AND PERSONALITY by George DeVos and Hiroshi Wagatsuma. This book posits a rather opposite view in that it compares the caste systems in Japan and India with what they see as a caste system that existed in the American south in regards to blacks and whites.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
As for The Street Sweeper, I've started my novelized version of this tale. This one is definitely fantasy, as it features ghosts and spirits -- a ghost is one of the main viewpoint characters. Both my short story and my novelized version are highly speculative -- there truly isn't a whole lot of information out there about those in outcast groups in historical times.


Have you read the Legends of Otori series? It's also historical fantasy and includes a sympathetic portrayal of the outcasts.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
In the last few years there have been a handful of historical novels based on Japanese history that have been well received and done quite well in the market. Ones that I've read or looked at are:
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
The Pure Land by Alan Spence (based on the Nagasaki arms merchant Thomas Glover)
Commander Perry's Minstrel Show by Richard Wiley
The Last Concubine by Lesley Downer


Thanks for the recommendations. Downer's book is on my Xmas wish list, but I haven't heard of the rest. Don't know how Downer's book is doing saleswise though. Other books that *seemed* to disappear (although I don't have sales stats) are Memoirs of the Warrior Kumagai by Donald Richie (ranked 1.3 millionth on Amazon) and The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby (about 450 000th)--she wrote an excellent anthropological study of geisha culture and history.

Readers have also mentioned that the lack of a Western character in my novel could be a barrier. With a movie like Seven Samurai it's probably not an issue with people because it is a direct product of Japanese culture.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've got The Tale of Murasaki. I like Liza Dalby's writing in non-fiction very much - she is so knowledgeable. This book is really interesting and well-researched as you would expect. I think it must have sold reasonably well.

I don't think you necessarily need a Western character. (After all, Tales of the Otori has no Western characters, though it's a slightly different case as it's set in an imagined Japan-like country, not historical Japan.) I was just pointing out that these books that have been published recently do have them and it is worth looking at what is out there, even if you decide to take no notice eventually. I think your novel has a sufficiently interesting main character as it is, but I'm afraid I haven't had time to do more than look rather quickly at the chapters up on Authonomy. (I liked what I saw.) Probably, for most people, the single most important element in a novel is narrative drive, the page turner quality that draws people in. I happen to value writing style very highly - but I think Kitsuno has already given a super-eloquent explanation of this Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
I've got The Tale of Murasaki. I like Liza Dalby's writing in non-fiction very much - she is so knowledgeable. This book is really interesting and well-researched as you would expect. I think it must have sold reasonably well.

I don't think you necessarily need a Western character. (After all, Tales of the Otori has no Western characters, though it's a slightly different case as it's set in an imagined Japan-like country, not historical Japan.) I was just pointing out that these books that have been published recently do have them and it is worth looking at what is out there, even if you decide to take no notice eventually. I think your novel has a sufficiently interesting main character as it is, but I'm afraid I haven't had time to do more than look rather quickly at the chapters up on Authonomy. (I liked what I saw.) Probably, for most people, the single most important element in a novel is narrative drive, the page turner quality that draws people in. I happen to value writing style very highly - but I think Kitsuno has already given a super-eloquent explanation of this Very Happy


I read your first book, and liked it a lot. I was wondering if your choosing an imaginary country had anything to do with the problem of shoehorning fiction into history?
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
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I read your first book, and liked it a lot. I was wondering if your choosing an imaginary country had anything to do with the problem of shoehorning fiction into history?


Thanks Very Happy I didn't really think it through that rationally, but after I'd finished I realized that it probably had made things a little easier. I have to say that though I can give other people rational advice, I don't usually follow it myself. I work rather by instinct - it's hard to explain but it's a secretive and obsessive process working out the original spark of inspiration that I knew was going to turn into a novel - but what sort of novel or if it would be one that anyone else would ever want to read, I had no idea.

In writing fiction you are using both sides of your brain which is why so often talking about it sounds contradictory or paradoxical. You have to be both instinctive and rigorous, original and controlled. I'm reading Haruki Murakami's book on running and writing at the moment - he says it all so much better than I can. (What I talk about when I talk about running http://tinyurl.com/4hhtaz)
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
I don't think you necessarily need a Western character. (After all, Tales of the Otori has no Western characters, though it's a slightly different case as it's set in an imagined Japan-like country, not historical Japan.) I was just pointing out that these books that have been published recently do have them and it is worth looking at what is out there, even if you decide to take no notice eventually. I think your novel has a sufficiently interesting main character as it is, but I'm afraid I haven't had time to do more than look rather quickly at the chapters up on Authonomy. (I liked what I saw.) Probably, for most people, the single most important element in a novel is narrative drive, the page turner quality that draws people in. I happen to value writing style very highly - but I think Kitsuno has already given a super-eloquent explanation of this Very Happy


Embarassed I'm such an idiot. The wheels started slowly turning tonight. "User Name: Heron," "Location: Australia," female avatar. Finally clicked on your user name and found the website to confirm my deductions. Just wanted to say that I read and enjoyed all five books of the Otori series early this year. I was going through a very stressful period at work and your books made a terrific release at the end of the day. My favourite was Heaven's Net is Wide. Thanks for having a look at my book. Nice meeting you here.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
You never know who you are going to run into on the samurai-archives Just Kidding I'm glad you've enjoyed my books. I hope we'll see yours in print soon. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
You never know who you are going to run into on the samurai-archives :P I'm glad you've enjoyed my books. I hope we'll see yours in print soon. :grin:


Thanks for the encouragement. Good night from Canada.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 20, 2008 5:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:

Thanks Very Happy I didn't really think it through that rationally, but after I'd finished I realized that it probably had made things a little easier. I have to say that though I can give other people rational advice, I don't usually follow it myself. I work rather by instinct - it's hard to explain but it's a secretive and obsessive process working out the original spark of inspiration that I knew was going to turn into a novel - but what sort of novel or if it would be one that anyone else would ever want to read, I had no idea.
It is interesting that you say this (mainly the last sentence); it is mirrored almost exactly by the thoughts and reflections of J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote his mythologies of Arda from an inner need and had no idea if anyone would ever want to read the stuff he came up with. His ideas of language and history and their intertwining really come through, and show a love for the process and a quality of inhabiting the created world at a deep, mythological level.

Quote:
In writing fiction you are using both sides of your brain which is why so often talking about it sounds contradictory or paradoxical. You have to be both instinctive and rigorous, original and controlled. I'm reading Haruki Murakami's book on running and writing at the moment - he says it all so much better than I can. (What I talk about when I talk about running http://tinyurl.com/4hhtaz)
I read the synopsis of this book, and it sounds quite interesting; I am not a long-distance runner, but I have engaged in the solitary sport in a noncompetitive capacity (many years ago though), and there is nothing like being there "in the zone" of pure action without reflection. If anything is Zen, it is running. In my later years, I've replaced running with swimming, as it is much easier on the joints, but it still has an unnameable quality of being and thoughtless thought. I am intrigued! (But, of course, I have MANY Bakumatsu sources to get through, and I'm determined to try out the Tales of the Otori right after that!) Smile
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