So, over the past weekend, I was finally able to announce what my most recent project has been over the past few months. Due for release this summer is my translation of Japanese SF/F author Yu Godai's Quantum Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, Vol. 1, published through Bento Books.

For those of you who might be familiar with the Digital Devil Saga series released on PS2 almost a decade ago, these books are related to those games. Except rather than being a novelization of a video game, instead, Quantum Devil Saga is the original creator's work, sort of her original vision for what the story would have been if it hadn't been bound by the constraints of a video game. The end result is something that fans of the games should definitely enjoy and find familiar, while also standing on its own and not reading like someone copied down a video game into prose form.

If you're not familiar with the series, here's my quick capsule synopsis: there's a sort of post-apocalyptic world called the Junkyard, where various tribes are all vying for control. When people from one tribe are killed, they're reincarnated as someone without allegiance to any particular tribe, and are fair game for recruitment. Whichever tribe is able to take control of the whole Junkyard shall be allowed to enter the paradise of Nirvana. However, things have been at a standstill for some time, and so the powers that be decide to shake things up a bit by...changing the rules, let's say.

So, if you're into weird, surreal sci-fi with elements of body horror, Hindu themes, and a fair bit of violence on top of that, this is the book for you! (If that sounds like an odd combination, it is, but it somehow works, kind of like a Monte Cristo sandwich, only with horrifying transformations and Vedic mythology).

The folks over at the Cathedral of Shadows podcast (dedicated to Shin Megami Tensei in all its bizarre forms) did an interview with me last week, where I talk about the process of translating this novel, and a lot about freelance translating and Japanese/English localization in general. If translation is a subject that interests you, or that you'd want to learn more about, I suggest giving the podcast a listen, even if the book itself doesn't sound like it's up your alley.

This has been a really fun project to work on (I'm still finishing up the last 1% or so!), in addition to being a very rewarding experience. A lot of people seem to be really looking forward to this release, including a lot of folks who clearly thought it was never going to happen, so I'm happy to break the good news!

Cathedral of Shadows episode link: http://youtu.be/Cm45-WIXuYk
Bento Books website: http://bentobooks.wpengine.com/
Lots of people (particularly folks on Twitter) have been subjected to my somewhat frequent bouts of despair and depression over the last several months, and more than a few attempts at me needing to beg for help on a financial level. Now that it's November, there are still a lot of people who don't even know what's going on, what's caused me to be this upset, and I think it's time that I finally just laid it out so that I can clear the air. Nobody likes it when someone's complaining about their lot in life and won't say what's wrong.

I'll start with the big doozy...

Back in early May, I was pulled over for a broken tail light while leaving a bar and subsequently arrested for a DUI. I want to stress that it was just the tail light that got me pulled over--I didn't get into an accident, I wasn't swerving all over the road, and nobody got hurt--but hey, arrested is still arrested and I'm not trying to absolve myself of the responsibility there. Luckily, one of my very good friends came out to get me at the police station at 4 in the morning and took me home.

(Fig 1 - Life After Getting a DUI: http://i.imgur.com/eJoH4vw.gif )

The legal fallout from that night is still a daily presence in my life. I'm far from done dealing with all the fees, required programs, and other punishments that were thrown at me, and I'll be walking on eggshells for at least the next three years making sure I don't ever run into even the slightest bit of further trouble (which I hope will be easy enough, but you never know).

It's hard to really explain how this makes you feel. Humiliation is a big part of it. Almost overnight, it's like you become part of this undesirable element of society, and there isn't a way to change that. For the first several months that this was all going on, since it was an ongoing legal process, I couldn't talk about it with other people, and by the time it got to the point where that aspect had been resolved, I'd long since stopped wanting to talk about it. The whole thing had reduced me to this ball of frustration and anger and hopelessness and trust me, when you're in the thick of this, it's hard to see any end in sight.

(Fig 2 - My Attitude Toward the Universe: http://i.imgur.com/sEJcP6D.gif )

As a fun side effect, the DUI was what forced me to cancel my Guest of Honor appearance at Condition: Wasteland this past summer, which was kind of like the cherry on top of the suck sundae that my life had turned into at that point. The people who run that con had all been extremely nice to me, and to be forced to have to let them down like that was a lot to bear. (Really, I've canceled literally every single trip I had planned this year, but that was just really tough to have to do, and I'm mostly just glad they found a replacement at all.)

So, anyway, over the last few months while dealing with all of this (and it's a lot to deal with), my freelance work all but disappeared. It was unrelated to the DUI stuff, but seeing as I was already crushed under all that, losing my main source of income pretty much devastated the rest of. Aside from the fact that I've been hit with enormous costs because of said legal problems (over $5000 so far and counting), it's essentially like I've been unemployed, only without the benefit of being able to claim unemployment payments.

I started doing teaching to supplement my otherwise minimal income, and that was all right for a couple weeks, but quickly turned into a bust. I'm down to just two and a half students, and those aren't going to last much longer, because at that low volume there's no good financial incentive to keep putting time into it. For a while, it was good just because it gave me even a minor sense of purpose in my life, but I can live with the fact that I at least tried.

(Fig 3 - Abstract Representation of Me Trying to Make Progress: http://i.imgur.com/wDkaqfI.gif )

In the meantime, I finally found a nice, long (paying!) project to work on, but the downside is that it's not going to be paid for it until another month or two, and even then it's not going to be a lot of money right away. It's something to do, and more importantly, it's a foot in the door to other opportunities (potentially really huge ones), but in the meantime I have almost now incoming cash flow and no way to pay my rent or my bills, and that's a lot to have to deal with. (I can't just get a retail job or anything in the meantime because this current project is going to be a full-time thing and it has some pretty strict deadlines, and turning it down kills the only career-furthering lead I've had in over a year.)

Most days I'm fine. Most days I even feel pretty normal and I can laugh about things and poke fun at my situation. But every so often, the negatives just pile up and I can't handle things anymore. Every few weeks, it's like something else completely outside my control comes screaming along to undo all of my meager progress, then knocks me back further than when I started, and when that happens it's hard to keep up the incentive to try anymore. Thankfully, today is not one of those days.

(Fig 4 - Representation of How My Life Has Felt: http://i.imgur.com/Jhvex.gif )

I want to apologize to everyone I've upset over the last few months, either directly or indirectly. I know I've been alternately bitch and inconsolable and begging and despondent and other types of just plain unpleasant, and for folks who don't know me as well, I want to stress that that's very much not how I usually am. I apologize further for not telling people what's been wrong, either because I couldn't or because I couldn't bring myself to. That's a big part of why I'm saying all this here.

This has been kinda hard to write, I won't lie. But I feel like I owe it to people to come clean. That, and I think it's important that people know what's going on. For those of you who stuck with this this long, I offer you this: http://i.imgur.com/6clzhMa.gif

Online Japanese Lessons - Information Page

I'm currently offering online Japanese lessons and tutoring to folks. Since there's a lot of information strewn about multiple places from when I was putting this all together, I thought it made sense to collect it all in one place.

This list will be updated as more information becomes available.

How do I sign up?
There's an online signup sheet that you can access right here.

How does this all work?
Lessons are held online via Google Hangout. All you need is a Google account to log in, and a headset mic so that you can talk to me and the other students. I use the Hangout's Screenshare feature to display my lesson plans and my "whiteboard" for examples.

What are the classes like?
Individual classes contain between one and six students, and you can request private lessons if you prefer. Regularly-scheduled lessons are, of course, intended for non-solo classes.

What level of Japanese are you teaching?
Currently, I have two six-lesson curriculum sets that, together, cover what I consider "Introductory Japanese." I'm going to be adding Intermediate Japanese very soon, as well, likely also broken up into two levels the same way Introductory Japanese is.

What do the different levels cover?
The curriculum for Level 1 of Introductory Japanese is here for reference, and the curriculum for Level 2 will be up soon. Essentially, though, after both levels of Introductory Japanese, students should be able to construct and understand basic sentences and understand most key grammar concepts.

Intermediate Japanese will cover more advanced concepts, such as passive voice, causatives, honorific speech (keigo), and a stronger grasp of colloquial language.

What courses are being offered right now?
Introductory Japanese Level 1 is staring new classes on Monday evenings at 6:00pm PST beginning on September 16th. Introductory Japanese Level 2 will be held at 5:00pm PST and 7:30pm PST on Wednesday nights, starting September 18th. Intermediate Japanese classes will likely begin in late October or early November.

Privately-scheduled lessons can, of course, be for whatever level the student requests.

Are there homework assignments? Or tests?
Not as such, no. Since this is private tutoring, no one is graded on their progress. However, students will have access to worksheets and exercises (prepared by me) to test themselves on the concepts learned in a given lesson, and I will give feedback on progress and tailor lessons to help address problematic points or cover material that needs more extensive review.

Help! I don't know how to read or write in Japanese!
No problem! Obviously, if you're just starting out, you won't know the Japanese writing system. Though it isn't called out in the syllabus, learning hiragana and katakana (the two Japanese syllabaries) is part of Level 1 of Introductory Japanese, and students planning on taking Level 2 are expected to have a functional grasp of these.

For Intermediate Japanese, a working knowledge of basic kanji (Chinese ideograms) is expected. More advanced kanji knowledge is better suited to the purview of self-study.

How much does this all cost?
I charge $40 per 90-minute lesson, or $200 for a full curriculum of six lessons if you pay in advance (which is akin to buy five, get one free).

Japanese Lesson Signup

After looking at potential scheduling options, I've decided that I'm going to hold a few time slots for Beginner Japanese Tutoring, starting in just a few weeks (exact dates TBD). They will be held online, in real time, using some combination of Skype and/or Google Hangout or some similar program setup.

These will be tutoring classes intended for people with little to no Japanese knowledge, and people who have studied it in the past but could use a brush-up. In addition to scheduled classes, I can also accommodate personal, one-on-one lessons as needed for other scheduling needs.

This is not a one-time offer. This will be a regular, ongoing thing. So, if you can't sign up now, either because you don't have the time or can't afford it, then don't worry. I'll be open for new students for the foreseeable future, and if this takes off, I'll start offering more advanced classes and the like.

Starting prices are $40 per 90 minute module, or $200 for a curriculum of six modules. Details on guaranteed lesson slots and refunds are in the contract I will send out to interested parties.

The class signup form is here.

Thanks in advance!

EDIT: Link fixed! Sorry about that!


Interview for Red Furros

So the fine folks over at Red Furros (a website for Spanish-speaking furries) did an interview with me a few weeks ago, which has finally gone live! You can check it out here! (It's in English; apparently there'll be a Spanish-translated version up later.)

There are some neat questions here, a lot of which take a distinct cultural perspective, and it was interesting to look at things from different angles in order to come up with good answers (that, and it was refreshing to do an interview that didn't ask my thoughts on cyber-yiffing or anything).

Furry Fiesta Mini Wrap-Up

So, despite being sick for one whole day of the convention, I had a good time.

I got to see a lot of my Texas pals, and some friends from other parts of the country, and had a pretty chill time. I don't have any crazy-amazing stories, but it was nice to just hang out, see people, and have one last year in Booze Mama's lovely little bar (she makes a fine dirty martini, by the way).

Also, over the weekend I got a lot of lovely praise about "Summerhill." People seem to be finally getting around to reading and finishing it now that it's been out for around a month, and it's extremely flattering, everything I've been hearing about it. I feel less bad, now, about taking so much time to make sure I was writing a book that was up to my standards instead of just trying to rush it out the door. Hopefully the fans think the same.

Speaking of, the initial launch for "Summerhill" has been my most exciting and most successful so far, by a wide margin. It's a little overwhelming, knowing that people are out there, coming to get their paws on my book, specifically, and not just finding it sitting on a table, picking it up, and taking a chance on it because it seems interesting (though those people are out there, too, and they're no less valid!). I'm just a combination of flattered and humbled by it all, and I love you guys for it.

Now I'm back home in the Bay Area, unwinding for the evening before getting back to the grind. But it was good to get away (even if I had to work for a few days while on vacation, but that's another thing).
Now that my book has been out for a week, people have started mentioning that they've gotten around to finishing reading it (which is very exciting!). However, since places like Twitter are less than ideal for having literary discussions, I thought I'd make a thread where people can talk about it and have room for, like, words and stuff.

So yeah, share your thoughts! Ask me questions about the story or my process! Swap notes about fanfic pairings with each other! Or whatever you kids do these days.

(There's a sister thread up on FA, too, if people would rather discuss there.)
I'm kind of amazed I'm even awake right now. Further Confusion 2013 was a total blast, during which I partied like a goddamn rock star to the point of total exhaustion. Thankfully, my brain, stomach, and liver all seem to forgive me, though the rest of my body is eager for an honest, full-night sleep.

The book launch for Summerhill was amazing. Every time I've released a book, it's gotten more exciting. Knowing that some fans had been waiting over two years to get their hands on a copy of this book made it feel really gratifying and kind of special to be able to finally get it to them. I'm extremely humbled that I've got fans who read my stuff and who willingly come back to read more of it. I never take any of that for granted.

Happily, the book also sold really well! I won't go into specific sales figures, but the publisher sold close to 90% of the stock they brought to the con, which is pretty darn good. And I'm happy for them, mainly because now I don't need to worry about whether they'd taken some really bad risk on me or anything.

But yes, so while decompressing from post-convention insanity, I finally put together a simple placeholder webpage for me and my books. This puts them all in one place, so that people who ask where they can find them can, well, find them. It's over here.

I'm way too wiped out to do a full-on, proper con report, but I do want to give a shout out to all of my awesome friends who were at FC, ones I hung out with and ones I only ran into in passing--I'm sorry there's never enough time, and that I'm so busy at cons like this! And a huge, huge thanks to furplanet for their support and enthusiasm for my book launch.

I would wag my curly husky tail with excitement, still, but I think my body has lost the energy to do so, now. And that's not a bad thing.

Storytelling and Emotion

A few weeks ago, after driving home one night, I found myself parked outside of my house, listening to the Cloud Atlas soundtrack. As had happened each time I'd seen the movie, I'd wound up a bit misty-eyed. I recall specifically listening to the end credits theme, moved to borderline tears, and saying out loud in my car, "Someday I will create something beautiful."

About ten or fifteen minutes ago, I was listening to the same soundtrack, and finally just burst into tears for well over five minutes. Just thinking about the story, and all the emotions surrounding it, became too much, and I couldn't help but cry almost uncontrollably.

David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas is my favorite book of all time. The movie adaptation is probably my favorite movie of all time. In either case, I think it's a masterpiece, that the story is amazing and the message conveyed therein is nothing short of beautiful.

Lately, I've been feeling despondent about my own writing. It's a weird feeling, being a month away from having a novel published, and thinking the entire time that my writing career has peaked, that I'll never again create anything worthwhile, that nothing I do from here on out will mean anything to anyone.

Honestly, the reason I'm a storyteller is because I want to make people feel things. And I know, intellectually, that I've done that. Readers have told me that both Thousand Leaves and The Seventh Chakra have made them cry. My hope is that Summerhill will strike an emotional chord with readers, too. My writing career has never been about money or popularity or making a statement. All it's ever been about is my wanting to share stories with other people, to make them think or feel or even pause for a moment to wonder.

I'm not trying to produce the next Cloud Atlas. Hell, in my mind, I hold it in such high esteem that to think I'd ever create anything half or even as tenth as powerful as that is hubris in its purest form. I just want people to feel things, to experience a story I might have put together and to have it resonate, even for a moment, on a personal level.

I'm not trying to change the world. I'm not even trying to change a single person's life. I'd be happy if, by reading something I wrote or hearing a story I had to tell, I made someone's afternoon better.

That's all I'm out to do. And the thing I'm most afraid of is that I'm losing the ability to do even that.

All I can do is try, though. To try and try again, as hard as I can, because if I have anything worthwhile to offer anyone outside of myself, it's in the telling of stories. And maybe I'm not that great at it. But all I can do is try to be the best at it that I can be.
Hello, dear readers!

I'm very happy to announce that, at very long last, my new novel, called Summerhill, is going to be released next month at Further Confusion in San Jose.

The book is a science-fiction adventure that started as a weird, one-off story idea I had three years ago. After some feedback and some brainstorming, I wound up fleshing out the idea more and more until it snowballed into what it is now. Which I hope is something pretty fun for folks!

You can read the publisher's press release on it here. In addition to what's listed there, I can also say that there's an ebook version planned as well, to be released a little later (details are a bit sketchy).

I'm really glad that this is finally ready to see the light of day and that people will finally get to read what I've worked so hard on over these past few years. I hope the wait is worth it!


Rikoshi Kisaragi
Rikoshi Writes

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