Archive for August, 2016

An Interview with Chris Ryall

BOE - working on novel copy

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on.

My name is Chris Ryall. I’m an Australian teacher, and have worked and lived in Japan for 20 years. My passion is writing, and I am the author of several short stories, many pieces of poetry and a novel. I’m hoping to have my debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun, published in 2017. Using my experiences from time spent living in Osaka and holidaying in Okinawa, I have written a story about a young American teacher working in Osaka. He finds trouble with both the Yakuza and the police when his Japanese girlfriend turns out to be the daughter of the local Mob boss.

 

If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?

Stephen King. I’ve been an avid reader of his since I was a teenager. Stephen King (along with Dan Brown, John Grisham, Clive Cussler) was the inspiration for me to become a writer.

 

Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

Well, as both a teacher and a writer, I would like to share with the reader some Japanese history and culture (amidst the action and romance), and maybe even entice them to visit Japan.

 

If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?

With regard to serious literature, I’d love to be Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights – such a marvelous story to be a part of. However, if we are talking about modern, contemporary fiction, then to be Louis from Ann Rice’s Interview with a Vampire would be an incredible adventure. Imagine the changes that Louis (played by Brad Pitt in the movie) would have witnessed.

 

Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Ninjas. As much as I like pirates (I loved reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as a child), my 20 years in Japan have endeared me to samurai warriors and ninjas. I have enjoyed visiting a few ninja castles, museums and performances while living in Japan.

 

Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

Time and money. I have taken ‘sabbaticals’ away from paying jobs to work on my writing, and I have also sacrificed time with my wife, Mandy, in order to finish and edit my debut novel.

 

What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

I hate when a great book comes to an end. Writing a book on the other hand is a lot harder than most people know. It takes time, dedication, sacrifice, patience, and being a first time, unknown author makes it incredibly hard to get published. Finding time for either is also a challenge.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote my first poem in year 8 of high school. I wrote my first novel when I was 16. But I first considered myself a writer when I had my first article published when I was 20 years old.

 

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Rob Parnell. I mentioned before which novelists have inspired me, but Rob Parnell has actually tutored me in many aspects of writing, especially ‘show, don’t tell’. Rob is a professional writing guru, and the author of over 30 books, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve taken a number of Rob’s writing courses over the years and have learned much as a result. You can find out more about Rob here on my author blog:

http://cjryall.com/author-blog/category/rob-parnell-author-interview

 

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Yes. Please take a look at my author website, and find out more about my upcoming debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

http://cjryall.com/gold-of-the-rising-sun.html

 

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

Tough question. One giant bestseller would be immensely satisfying, but a long string of moderate sellers would ultimately be more rewarding in the long term. I’d settle for that.

 

Would you rather read a book that is poorly written but has an excellent story, or read one with weak content, but is well written?

A well written book is always a pleasure to read, no matter it being a weak story. However, I wouldn’t get far enough into a poorly written book to know whether or not it had a great story. A well written story will always win over one that is badly written, regardless of the concept.

 

Do you think a writer should write every day?

Yes, I do. But I also admit that that in itself is a real challenge. A full-time, stay-at-home writer can manage that of course, but for someone who is still working another job, it’s difficult. As a teacher, I’m afraid, there are simply days where I can’t find the time to work on my writing.

 

What five words would you use to describe yourself?

Dreamer, Generous, Frustrated, Diligent, Romantic.

 

Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I’ve learned and practiced Karate both in Australia and in Japan (which came in handy for the main character in my novel). I love watching old movies and listening to retro music. I never intended on being away from my country for so long, but now my wife and I intend to spend the rest of our lives here. (We currently hold ‘permanent resident’ status).

 

If you could marry a fictional character who would it be?

I’m happily married, but if I were to marry a fictional female character, I would probably choose Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights), to whom romance meant everything.

 

Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

I’m not superstitious, so I don’t rely on any lucky charms or talismans. However, I do find music can help set a mood for a particular scene. When I wrote chapters set in Japan, I listened to Japanese (instrumental) music. When I wrote action scenes, I listened to heavy rock music.

 

Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

Be yourself. Don’t ever try to be someone else. Discover your own style. It’s too much trouble to keep up a false façade and eventually the mask will slip. Be honest and sincere from the start.

 

Poetry that rhymes or poetry that doesn’t—which do you prefer?

Finding a poet that writes great ‘free verse’ is extremely difficult. Nan Witcomb (The Thoughts of Nanushka) is one such poet. Generally, however, I like to read and write poetry that rhymes.

 

What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?

“Why did you become interested in Japan?”

The answer: I grew up on the Gold Coast, in the ‘Sunshine State’ of Queensland, with its pristine beaches and laid-back lifestyle. In the late 70s and all through the 80s there were lots of Japanese tourists, and I developed an interest in Japan.

When I was a boy I saw Japanese ‘anime’ or cartoons on TV, and later I saw Samurai movies by the late, famed director, Kurosawa Akira, on SBS. Hence, when I was studying Education at Griffith University (Gold Coast Campus), I chose to study Japanese language as my elective.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Teaching, I was offered a scholarship to study for one year as an exchange student in Tokyo. In 1992, I traveled to Musashino city in Tokyo and furthered my Japanese studies at Seikei University. I studied Matsuo Basho, the famous haiku poet, and Natsume Soseki, a very popular Japanese writer and novelist.

At the time, my girlfriend (now my wife, Mandy) was living in Osaka, having also graduated from Griffith University with a mutual interest in Japan. Instead of returning home after completing my year in Tokyo, I moved to Osaka and quickly got a job there. We lived together in an apartment, climbed Mt Fuji, saw live Sumo wrestling, enjoyed a tea ceremony in a Buddhist temple, and traveled around Japan.

Mandy and I returned to Australia, got married, and spent a month traveling around the west side of the United States on our honeymoon. We eventually found our way back to Japan, and have been here ever since. We currently live in Matsusaka city in Mie – the home of Matsusaka Beef (‘wagyu’).

 

Please share your social media links with us, including your author website:

Website: http://cjryall.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cryall

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJRyallcom

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+ChrisRyall

Pinterest: https://jp.pinterest.com/cryall06/

 

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CHAPTER ONE

Murder in Party Town

 

Osaka, Japan: Summer 2004

 

The ‘Bousouzoku’ motorbike gangs buzzed the city nightspot of Namba. They were dressed in wild, loose clothing that trailed behind them as they roared on through the night. The leader carried a traditional wartime Japanese flag – the “rising sun” flag, favored by right wing ultra-nationalists. There were about thirty bikes on the road. Most of them had one rider, but a few of them had a passenger riding pillion. The majority wore black leather jackets, many of which were adorned with chains and studs, or bright colorful patches with nationalistic symbols. Some of them had a traditional Japanese headband known as a ‘hachi-maki’. A number of them had dyed their hair blonde, to stand out, while others had colored theirs a fashionable brown. They glared at anyone who looked at them.

Cars swerved to avoid them; others pulled over to let them pass. Nobody dared beep their horn as the modified motorcycles weaved their way through traffic. Trailing closely behind the swarm of bikers were two police patrol cars, their sirens on and lights flashing. Competing with the sirens were the nationalistic anthems blasting out of the motorbikes’ speakers. Startled pedestrians on the sidewalk stopped and stared, but only for a moment, for this was just part of the wild nightlife in the city of Osaka – Japan’s ‘party town’.

Osaka, a city where the bars and clubs never shut down, is home to almost three million residents, to the Hanshin Tigers baseball team, and also one of many operating bases for the ‘Yakuza’, the Japanese Mafia. It was often reported in police bulletins and news media that that the Bousouzoku was a good training ground for the Yakuza, and new recruits were often selected from amongst its rank and file members.

Viewing the motorbike gang from a dark rooftop two hundred and fifty yards away was a middle-aged Japanese man. He peered through a telescopic sight attached to the top of his Russian Dragunov sniper rifle. As he crouched in the shadows, the man squeezed his left eye shut and focused his right eye on the lead motorcycle rider; his right hand adjusted the knob on his scope as he considered the distance and wind speed. He used a night sight, so the clarity was perfect. The sniper then sat back and breathed.

The Japanese Bousouzoku leader was not his target, but rather just a ‘test dummy’ on whom to set the range of his telescopic sight. He ran his hands along the rifle’s long barrel, and the magazine underneath. It was a new acquisition off the black market, and he hadn’t become totally familiar with it yet. Tonight he would christen the weapon with its first kill. His old sniper rifle was a typical bolt-action design, but it took too long to reload. Needless to say the new gun, along with the scope and the high-powered steel jacketed shells, was untraceable. He looked back through the scope at the motorbikes as they continued on their way, their nationalistic music barely audible.

It was common knowledge that many Bousouzoku were right-wingers, and supported the ultra-nationalists. The Yakuza also supported the right wing to a certain degree, as they were traditionalists and had a long history dating back to the seventeenth century.

Many Yakuza for that reason enjoyed historical drama and frequented the Shin-Kabuki Theater, a splendid, traditional Momoyama-style structure in Namba, where one could watch famous Japanese dramas played out on stage. Afterward they would head to one of the many typical hostess bars in the area, and drink ‘sa-ke’ and talk until dawn.

A group of middle-aged men, dressed in dark suits, wandered along Midosuji Avenue towards one of their favorite nightspots, where they were ‘jouren’ (regular customers). They were in the city center now, surrounded by thousands of people all bustling to get somewhere, cars tooting their horns, skyscrapers on all sides, offices and businesses that stayed lit up late into the night, and bright neon lights flashing their colorful messages.

One of the men looked much older than the rest, and the others seemed to defer to him. He could have been in his seventies or eighties, with his grey hair and wrinkled face, but he walked as though he was in his forties, sprite and energetic. He was missing the ‘pinky’ finger on his right hand, a telling sign that he was Yakuza. This was confirmed by a garish tattoo peeking out just above his collar.

It was visible from two hundred and fifty yards away, through the night sight of the sniper’s semi-automatic rifle. Using a military style reticle in the scope, the rifle’s telescopic sight showed only a horizontal and vertical gauge instead of the usual crosshairs, and a sloping scale for the height and distance of the target. The sniper could normally be assured of the accuracy of his shot with this special type of scope.

However he was also using a suppressor, similar to a silencer on a handgun, so as to muffle the sound and dull the flash in order to conceal his position. Unfortunately this would also compromise his accuracy slightly, the sniper knew. His magazine held ten rounds; although there were seven targets in his sights, only one of those was an absolute priority.

He sized up the old man up in his sight, and through the scope he could also see the traffic light for pedestrians counting down the remaining fifty-eight seconds until they could walk. Without taking his eye off his target, he eased his finger off the trigger, reached down and jabbed numbers on his cell phone. He let it ring three times and hung up. Seven blocks away, upon hearing the pre-arranged signal, a black BMW silently exited a city car park.

The aged Yakuza and his entourage waited patiently at the corner for the green ‘walk’ sign; their favorite bar was one of many lining the other side of the busy intersection. Two of the younger men pivoted on their heels, constantly scanning the crowd, as if afraid that there may be some danger lurking nearby. Behind them was a ten-story office building, mostly offices, with an English Language Conversation School taking up most of the second floor. The ground floor contained a foyer, with vending machines, an elevator, and a set of stairs leading up into the building. Directly outside the door, close to the wall of the building was a ‘Takoyaki’ stand selling popular fried dumplings filled with octopus.

The man behind the stand seemed occupied making and selling the traditional snack, and didn’t appear to be a threat. In the space between the Takoyaki stand and the Yakuza group was a throng of people, comprising those waiting for the light to change, and pedestrians walking past in either direction. Some were ‘salary men’, the Japanese term for standard male office workers; the others were young university students, or ‘OL’s (Office Ladies), or couples out on a date.

The sniper had no intention of harming any of these innocent people, but if one got caught in the crossfire, so be it. His eyes were coal-black, which was unusual for a Japanese person, and they sparkled like two shiny black marbles as he looked back down at his intended victim. He breathed in deeply and allowed his body to relax, as he refocused his gaze on the target through the scope and placed his finger on the trigger.

The shooter then held his breath as he slowly squeezed the trigger of the SVD sniper rifle. At a velocity of over eight hundred yards per second, the sniper saw the results of his shot almost immediately. The 7.62 caliber round tore into the chest of the victim, killing him instantly. The sniper studied the expression on the old man’s face as he fell to his knees and collapsed in the street. He searched for his next target.

At first the members of his entourage didn’t know what had happened, and in the few seconds it took for them to comprehend the horrible truth, the sniper had already set his sights on one of the two bodyguards. Again he held his breath, squeezed the trigger and smiled with satisfaction as he saw the bullet enter the man’s forehead, blowing out the rear of his skull. Now the group realized they were under attack, and looked around wildly for the assailant as they pulled their handguns from their jackets. Some of the bystanders panicked at the sight of the pistols.

The sniper fired a bullet into the neck of the second bodyguard who had attempted to rally the group by gesturing for them to duck and run. Civilians standing behind the Yakuza began to scream, at first merely confused but now clearly terrified.

They ran around in all directions, unknowingly blocking any more clear shots for the sniper, who continued to gaze at the scene until a black BMW came into view. Then he quickly packed his rifle and empty shells away, and retreated into the shadows behind him.

The sound of screeching tires cut through the chaos, accompanied by the smell of burning rubber. A black BMW came to a sudden halt on the road in front of the Yakuza. The rear doors burst open and two men leapt out, one on either side, both brandishing pistols. They started firing at the remaining Yakuza members, shooting one directly in the face and pumping more shots into the chests of the others. It was easy for the two assassins to differentiate the target group from the ordinary citizens as the Yakuza were all wearing tuxedos. Yakuza who had guns didn’t have time to react or get off a shot in defense; they fell to the ground in a relentless hail of bullets, a dark pool of blood spreading out around them.

Everyone around the dead men either huddled on the ground in stunned silence or ran off shrieking. A woman then screamed, joined by others in the throng. The two men holding guns yelled something in Osaka dialect and jumped back in the car. The BMW roared around the corner, melting into busy traffic and disappearing into the night, leaving behind only a cloud of gun smoke.

Moments later, as calm ensued, the surrounding witnesses stood and gathered around the seven motionless bodies. Staring down at the tuxedoed corpses, they whispered among themselves in hushed tones.

Amid the chatter, a common word was heard – “Yakuza”.

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 30, 2016 at 4:34 am

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An Interview with Novelist and Poet Jessica Evans

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Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.

I recently moved to Oklahoma from Ohio after the completion of my MFA at Spalding University. While in grad school, I published a chapbook and completed a novel. My brain was pretty fried by the time I got to the prairie, so I took a few months off of serious writing. Recently, I drove across the country and my Muse spoke to me somewhere in the middle of Missouri. I’m about halfway finished with my current full length novel. Additionally, I’ve just launched a blog, www.100flashdays.blogspot.com that helps writers promote their work without the sticky hierarchy of traditional literary magazines. My time is spent between these two projects, finding a home for a collection of poetry and the gym. Oh, and I teach English to ESL learners somewhere in there too.

 

Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?

I’m really interested in the marginalized members of society. I hope that my work shows compassion and a dedication to the idea that all voices need to be heard, even if we don’t always like them.

 

Pirates or ninjas, and why?

Ninjas because if I say pirates, my sister might disown me. Seriously though, ninjas are far more ethically conscious than pirates. They’re stealthy and being a ninja seems like much harder work than being a pirate. I rarely choose the easy route.

 

Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?

If I had a dollar for every time I have told a loved one that I needed to ‘sit to pages’ or that I was spending the night in my lab and couldn’t make it to any variety of social events, I might have enough to pay off my grad school loans. That said, it’s hard to think about writing as a true sacrifice because it’s what I do. Who I am, and what I love.

 

What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?

I recently read a mind-candy novel wherein the author consistently reminded the reader of information that had already been presented. It drove me batty! I really dislike when authors don’t have faith in what their readers are going to remember.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I have this memory of being eight or nine, lying on my childhood bed with this rinky 3.5 journal. This was the 80s, so think Lisa Frank, complete with rainbows and unicorns, lots of bright color. On the cover, the word “Diary” was written in bold. I remember scribbling (and really, that’s what it was and has been for most of my life since I’m left-handed) away one night, not bothering to stop even for dinner. It was then that I knew I was a writer.

 

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

In addition to all the great mentors I’ve had the chance to work with at Spalding, I’ve also been fortunate enough to find some really amazing writers outside of my program.

 

Would you rather have one giant bestseller or a long string of moderate sellers?

I’m honestly not concerned with bestsellers or strings of moderate sellers. I’m interested in having my voice heard.

 

Do you think a writer should write every day?

If a writer wants to be a writer, then s/he should write. If it fits that the writing take place every day, then so be it. It’s hard to suggest that we all follow the same rules. This is a creative process, and while it takes commitment, it also takes fire. If one doesn’t have fire on a particular day, maybe doing something relating to writing will be just as beneficial.

 

What five words would you use to describe yourself?

Driven, dedicated, relentless, empathetic, loving.

 

Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write? If so, what is the story behind them?

Every writer has rituals. I have a million both relating to and totally unrelated to writing. The one I feel comfortable sharing is this – when I’m in the middle of a project, I don’t clean my lab. It stays dirty and dusty; aside from Larry, my albino kitty, no one is allowed inside. Once the project is complete, I do a total overhaul of the space, cleaning windows and changing curtains and usually rearranging the furniture. It helps clear the old energy to make way for new.

 

Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.

No one is ever going to hand you success, no matter the form in which you aspire to be successful. If you want it, go out and make it happen. It sounds trite but it’s true. It also sounds easy, but it’s not. Leaders have the faith to believe in their own dreams.

 

Please share your social media links:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/JEvans_writer

Website – http://www.jessicarevans.com

Blog – http://100flashdays.blogspot.com

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Posted by Matthew Peters - August 23, 2016 at 4:39 am

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