Reflecting about the earthquake in Japan.

Japan, Japan.

Five things to know going into this:

1) I am half Japanese.

2) My dad (the Japanese half) ran a business placing Japanese exchange students all while I was growing up, so from approximately 3-17, we always had a Japanese student (or two) staying with us.

3) I took Japanese in college. Just for a year, but enough to love the language.

4) I’ve been to Japan twice, once in high school, and again in college. My favorite thing about it was the unexpected juxtaposition of the ancient and the impossibly modern.

5) Up until about two and a half weeks ago, I was trying to get a job teaching English in Japan. I thought it would be a great experience for me and my husband, and maybe our only opportunity before kids, etc. I just couldn’t find a job, despite the qualifications above (which one company wrote back to me and remarked upon as being quite impressive, though they didn’t have a position for me).

So, Friday night I was flipping through the channels and decided to stop in at Anderson Cooper 360°. The show wasn’t on, of course, instead there was CNN breaking news, with footage running in the upper corner of the devastation going on. I read the ticker-tape line to the husband immediately—Japan had suffered a 8.9 earthquake, and the tsunami waves were already rolling in. We both watched, feeling a mixture of sick and relieved.

They showed images of Tokyo and talked about the trains being down—the main transportation system, something that has brought the city to its knees. Tokyo was exactly where I was focusing my job search, as my  husband doesn’t know Japanese, and it’s easier to get around a large city if you don’t. We had our heart pretty much set on Japan, and it was only by a few twists of fate (and probably some nudging from above) that kept us from ending up there, so you can imagine how the news hit us that night.

Still, even knowing that I’ve been kept from being a part of that disaster… it kills me to hear the death rolls rise, and to think of all that’s been destroyed (and still has the potential of being destroyed) in all of this. It’s not just the major cities, either. It occurred to me the other night how much of Japan is still fishing villages, and how it takes fish years to return to an environment that’s been as rent as Japan’s has—if any of those people can still find and use their fishing boats.

Really my thoughts are so jumbled that I probably have no business blogging about this right now, but I can’t help it. This has been weighing heavily on my mind. I’ve been impressed by how many organizations—big and small alike, have been running sales where 100% of profits go to Japan Relief. I’m donating 15% in my Etsy shop, and I desperately wish I could afford more, but I just can’t afford to right now.

Just know this is a nation I love, a land I love, a people I love. My heart is breaking for them.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld created a rich and lush steampunk alternate WWI history in Leviathan, which was one of my favorite reads of last year. The sequel, Behemoth, did not disappoint in the slightest.

I cannot express enough how complete the world-building is in this series. Westerfeld clearly knows just how history played out and just how he wanted to diverge for the sake of story.

Besides that, he is a master at putting his characters in just the right place to move the story forward, something that speaks to his experience as an author. I’ve never read any of Westerfeld’s other books, but I really look forward to the experience.

The story ranges between two main characters, Alek, who may well be the heir to the Austrian throne, and a girl named Deryn, who is disguised as the boy “Dylan” in order to serve in the British Air Service. Alek is a “Clanker” while Deryn is a “Darwinist,” in a world-wide fission between machinery and fabricated animals.

Circumstances have thrown the two together constantly, and they’ve come to trust each other with all of each others’ secrets—well, except for the fact that one of them is secretly a girl. Obviously that would only complicate things. The characters are dynamic and true-to-life, and it was a lot of fun to meet some new faces in the story, along with keeping tabs on the ones we already knew and liked. It’s fun to watch the bigger story unfold, too—the worldwide one.

Probably my favorite part of this particular book was Bovril, a fabricated beastie known as a perspicacious loris, which was quite the charmer over all. I wasn’t really a big fan of one newspapery character in the book, but I had a feeling he was fun to write… and that we might see more of him. I’m really excited because the next book is headed to Japan, and I’m insanely curious what all is going to go on there.

And then the question can’t help but tug at me… is there going to be a WWII series as well?

Carving time to Read

I have been a horrific reader of late.  If I’ve been reading anything, it’s been blog posts and news articles, stuff to critique for my writing group, or stuff for work.  I’ve also been reading a lot of tweets, which really, really do not count.

I made the goal again this year of reading 52 books in 52 weeks, but it’s over two weeks into the year and I haven’t finished a single book.  Then again, I also haven’t been giving myself any time to read.  I’ve been trying pushing myself so hard when it comes to writing, getting all my freelance stuff done and trying to get novel-writing time in also, that I’ve been sapping myself of my best source of inspiration—great books.

A lot of writers (as I’ve been reminded these past days, by reading their blogs) feel that reading is a part of the job.  Maybe one of the most important parts.  A lot of writers also mention that (like me) they feel guilty if they spend too much time doing anything that isn’t writing, and reading falls under that category—but they also realize that it’s to their detriment.

So I’ve decided something that might be very hard for me to do.  I’m going to let my weekends focus on reading.  I’m going to give myself my weekends to bury myself entirely in books, if I want to.  Let myself read as much as I want.  Actually give myself a chance to hit my reading goal.

I’m also planning on starting a regime of waking up at six in the morning to write, starting tomorrow, so that I have a set block of quiet time to work on my more creative endeavors.  Maybe as I get into the swing of things, I’ll be able to incorporate reading back into my schedule in a more normal basis, but we’ll see.


Japan update: In case you don’t know, I’m attempting to go to Japan this Spring/Summer with my husband if possible.  I’d be teaching English.  I’m applying all over the place, but only really seriously the past few days.  I’ve gotten two reply emails so far!  One “please send us this completed questionnaire!” that seems very encouraging, and another that wants me to reapply for their Summer term.  Wish me luck that my continued attempts go well!