Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Death of Death is Now an Audiobook



I'm happy to announce that my novelette, The Death of Death is now an audiobook available on Audible.com, iTunes, and Amazon. Through the great service of the Amazon-run ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), I was able to put a voice to my words, and it's been a surreal experience listening to it in the accent I intended it to be in. I thank Cardiff Television Sound Studios of Wales and their voice over artist, Deborah Young for helping me realize this.

If you're the type that can't stand to read words, and there are more of those types than I thought there were, and prefer to consume them orally, then give this a gande--uh, a listen and tell me what you think. 

The audiobook version of Autonomously Yours will be following in about a month's time. 

Special coupons for discounts will also be coming soon. Enjoy!



Amazon Link (traditional WORDS version and audio version): The Death of Death

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Cover Variations For My Novels





Here are two different cover variations for my novels, The Death of Death and Autonomously Yours.

For Death I just changed the font to a font I found to better fit my original desire for it. It's a little more gothic than what I originally used, which, I think, was Hoefler Text. A good, gothic font, but just not gothic enough for my tastes. Trattatello is what I'm using now, and I love it. It's just the right amount of goth I was looking for.

For Autonomously, I've also changed the font, but the most noticeable change I've made was to the Compandroid's pupil. It now looks like the original vision I had in my head for the cover. I asked a couple of people their opinions on which I should do, the broken electronic heart pupil, or the normal one and the normal one won out, but I've always preferred this version which I think is more visually striking. I've also added a small border, just because I like the look of it.

I've posted all four versions for comparison's sake. Which do you prefer?







Friday, December 25, 2015

MERRY CHRISTMAS, READERS! Here's a present from me to you.




Hello Everyone.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays and salutations.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays. I've just come back from a prolonged trip to Japan. It's inspired me to get writing more.

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving there for obvious reasons so I had no sense of it when I was there. But Christmas promotions are out in full force in Japan, let me tell you.

In fact, it's filled me with holiday spirit, and thus, I present this to you, an after Christmas sale.

From December 26th to December 30th, the digital version of my book, Autonomously Yours: The Life of a Compandroid, is absolutely FREE!

Please grab yourself a copy, because hey, it's Christmas, and more importantly, it's FREE! And as always, The Death of Death is also still very much FREE. So, have yourself a Merry Christmas and do some reading.

I thank you for your readership, and enjoy the rest of your vacations.


Links:
AUTONOMOUSLY YOURS: THE LIFE OF A COMPANDROID
THE DEATH OF DEATH

UK AUTONOMOUSLY YOURS
UK THE DEATH OF DEATH





Description:
In the future, robots are part of our daily lives. They serve and protect us, they watch our families and keep them safe, they treat us when we’re hurt, and they take our orders when we're hungry. There is, though, one untapped market… 

Meet Sally. A fully-functioning-female-human-imitation-android, created as a companion for the lonely men of the world, the first of its kind. But, there are problems for her creator. 

Robotics engineer Dr. Harold Okamura is finally given an opportunity by Mr. Jerrald Axell, the CEO of a company with dubious intentions, to realize a lifelong ambition: to create a robot that is indistinguishable from a human being. The problem is doing so breaks the first law of modern robotics, an offense punishable by imprisonment. Good thing for Harold, then, Mr. Axell is powerful enough to skirt such laws. But that’s not the only problem on the horizon. In fact, it’s the least of Dr. Okamura’s troubles. 

Before Sally can be brought to market, she has to go through a trial period. Dr. Okamura and his faithful android servant, Cran, monitor Sally as she is tested by three clients––all men of very questionable motives. 

From the author of The Death of Death comes a more mature, technological tale. 
Autonomously Yours is a story of relationships, emotions and tragedy, as told, literally, through the eyes of the world’s first Compandroid. 



Monday, December 7, 2015

Venturing into the World of Audiobooks



Thanks to the Amazon-owned company ACX, my two books will, most likely, be finally turned into audiobooks opening up a whole other way for my books to be consumed. I have friends who only "read" audiobooks, so I know there must be many people who are the same. It'll be nice to have a product out there for those types to consume as well.

The way it works is you take the Amazon link to your book and upload onto their site, plead your case to one of the many potential narrators, and, if it catches their eye, they send in their audition of about 2 - 3 minutes of an excerpt from your book, your choice of course, then you choose amongst who you think has the best voice to best represent your work. From there on you make the narrator an offer, which is one of two choices: revenue share, which splits the profits two ways, 50/50 straight down the middle, or, you can pay them in one lump sum, the price of your choosing. If they accept your offer, you're on the way to producing an audio version of your book that will be available on Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes.

Likewise, if you're an aspiring actor, or just someone who likes to narrate things, you can peruse the site for projects to audition for. Famous people such as Neil Gaiman even do narration for books through this site. That was something I was surprised to read.

I've already received a few auditions, and I have to say it is, to use an oft used description, very surreal to hear someone act out, in the form of their voice, words that you've written. Hugh Howey likens it to listening to a radio drama and I have to agree. It's a totally different experience hearing someone reciting words that you've written rather than reading them. It elevates something I've written, that I might even have thought of as juvenile, to a different, more mature level. I'm harsh on myself, but I really did almost think someone else wrote those words.

I've already chosen someone to narrate The Death of Death and that should get rolling along very soon. I'm still choosing between a couple of narrators for Autonomously Yours, so, if you're looking for something to lend your voice to head over to the site and check it out.

This is very exciting and I can't wait to put our work out into the world. No matter what comes of it, it'll be great to have an audio version of my work.



"Imagine Little Tokyo" Short Story Contest II entry: "Alice and the Bear"



This was my second short story I wrote for the 2nd annual local short story contest entitled "Imagine Little Tokyo." Our instructions were to use Little Tokyo, a historic section of Los Angeles, as the setting for a short story. 
My story titled "Alice and the Bear", follows a woman by the name of Alice Miyamoto as she recounts her thoughts when she was a little girl living in Los Angeles during the internment of Japanese-American citizens, and her imaginary friend, a stuffed bear named Mr. Bearington who helped her survive her internment. I was a finalist in the running for 1st prize amongst 14 others who were also chosen, but I didn't know it until they sent me a certificate signed by the mayor of Los Angeles. That certainly was a surprise. Again, I lost, but it was fun writing this story. It stemmed from an idea I had for years. I've posted it below for your enjoyment. So, by all means, enjoy!

ALICE AND THE BEAR
One splendid, breezy weekend in Los Angeles, a great-grandmother by the name of Alice Miyamoto and her family took a trip down to Little Tokyo. The joys, demands, and rigors of life had kept her away for more than 30 years, and so the trip was much needed.
As Alice walked by shops and restaurants she was reminded of times past, when she was but a young girl—no older than her great-granddaughter—when she too walked these sidewalks long ago.
There were myriad shops and restaurants, just like there had been when she was small, but they were a little newer—some a little flashier—but no less enticing.
After lunch at a restaurant named Suehiro, they sat and had cups of nice, hot green tea. As Alice sipped her tea, she was reminded of when her father would take her on the weekends to a coffee shop here—no longer in existence—where they would sit for hours drinking green tea and eating sticky sweet mochi. Those were some of her favorite moments as a child.
Alice’s daughter suggested that they visit the Go For Broke Monument just behind Suehiro. Alice had thought it a wonderful idea, as she had not yet had a chance to see it.
As they walked down the street they happened upon a trinket store that caught the eye of Alice’s great-granddaughter.
The little girl pleaded to go inside as she tugged on Alice’s hand. How could she say no to the brilliantly adorable face that stared up at her? So she did not decline, and followed her into the store.
When inside, however, she was greeted by walls lined with the same strange, chubby stuffed animal: some small in size, some large, all grey with a white tummy, and a great big silly grin stretched across its face. At that moment Alice felt something odd, something familiar; nostalgia is the word that feeling goes by.
“Totoro!” exclaimed the great-granddaughter as she picked up one of the stuffed animals.
“What? What is its name again?” Alice pressed.
“Totoro. It’s an anime,” she said back.
Alice picked up the toy, identified as Totoro, and with an instant touch she was thrust back to her childhood, back to a time when she was but a four-year-old girl with a stuffed animal of her own: a black bear in a vest.
She remembered clutching her toy as she stepped onto that train to nowhere, scared of what was happening to her and her family, confused as to why they suddenly had to pack all of their belongings and move from their home.
She did not know the reason why for several years, which was good, for no girl that young should be made aware of such an atrocity.
When they arrived to wherever they were, Alice felt immediate dread. Their new surroundings were nothing like their original home, which was warm, colorful, inviting. Their new place, barracks as they were known, in contrast was drab, plain, cold.
She had no friends to play with, and did not feel in the mood to make new ones. Her sister was but a newborn at the time, not the age where one could have meaningful conversation, so, as you can imagine, Alice was a very lonely girl.
The days at the barracks were slow and bitter. Time slowed to a crawl, and to a child, that is worse than death. She spent her days and nights alone in a corner of her room drawing things on the floor with a bit of chalk she found on the floors of her classrooms, a sad, constant frown etched across her face as she did so.
Alice’s somber mood worried her mother so much so that it started to affect her own.
One night, as Alice lay upon her bed unable to sleep, a small voice called out to her in the darkness.
“Something troubling you?” it said in a hushed tone.
Alice sat up and looked around the room.
“Who’s there?” she whispered.
The owner of the voice stepped into Alice’s field of view and revealed itself to be her bear, only much bigger: almost the full height of their barracks, and nearly its width. He also now possessed the ability to converse.
“It is I, Mr. Bearington. Why are you awake?” he asked.
“I cannot sleep,” she answered.
“Of course you cannot sleep. Otherwise you wouldn’t be awake,” he said.
“Why can you talk?” she asked.
“Because you wish me to,” he answered.
“Why are you here?” she asked another question.
“Because you wish me to be,” he said, quite logically, and she seemed satisfied with his answers.
She stood up and stared at him, and said, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
“That is splendid for you, but why did you feel the need to share that with me?” he asked.
“I want you to come with me.”
“My dear, we have only just met and that is much too much an intimate experience to share with you at this juncture in our relationship.”
“But, it’s cold and scary,” Alice said.
“As for the frigidness of the weather I cannot disagree, but why is it scary?”
“When I go outside to use the bathroom there’s a big scary light that follows me,” she said.
“I noticed no such light. Let me see what you mean,” he said, and he made his way to the door, Alice following close behind.
As he searched around, he looked back to her and said, “I see no light, my dear.”
“That’s because I’m not out there yet,” she said.
“Well then, step outside and show me this light,” he said, and her face filled with calamity.
“I can’t do that.”
“My dear, how can I be sure of this light when I have no evidence of it? Step outside and show me.”
She thought about it before she did, and, not wanting to disappoint Mr. Bearington, took a single step outside.
No light.
She took another.
Still, no light.
She took several more steps and that’s when the light exposed itself. Alice hurried back into the house.
“That?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said.
“My dear, that is nothing to be afraid of. Where I come from we call that a ‘spotlight.’ And do you know what a spotlight means?”
She shook her head. He signaled her to make a move. She apprehensively made her way back outside as the light once again appeared out of nowhere and shined itself on her.
“My dear, a spotlight means that you’re a star!” he hollered out to her, “And where I come from, stars almost always use the lavatory without fear. But be careful to hide yourself when doing so, your adoring public needs not see such things.”
Her face lit up as she heard this. She then went and did her business confidently, and carefully, after which she returned to her room without fear of the spotlight.
“Now, get to bed,” he said to Alice as she returned, “Stars need their beauty sleep.”
She nodded, and climbed into bed.
“Will I see you again?” she asked Mr. Bearington.
“Perhaps you will, perhaps you won’t. You’ll just have to wait until morning to see,” he said, and plopped himself in the corner with a great thud that shook the whole place, which rocked Alice to sleep.
She awoke the next morning to find Mr. Bearington in the same place she left him.
“Good morning,” he said, “I trust you slept well. Your parents have been up for quite some time.”
He pointed at her mother, who was readying breakfast, and her father, who was reading a paper at the table.
“Mother, isn’t he wonderful? He can talk now,” said Alice to her mother.
“Who?”
“Mr. Bearington,” said Alice, and all the mother could see was a plain old stuffed bear sitting in the corner.
“Stop that now, it’s not healthy,” said her mother.
“But—”
“No buts. Stop it this instant. He can’t speak,” she scolded again.
“Leave her be,” said her father, “It’s her way of coping with this stupid war,” he said.
“Watch your language,” said her mother, for what was said was not the word stupid, but because Alice was a small child unable to comprehend the actual word spoken, stupid was the word she heard instead.
“Let her cope anyway she wants. I chose to cope with this cigarette,” he said as he slipped on a coat and stepped outside for a smoke, her mother following his lead.
“Why are they fighting like that? Is it my fault?” she asked the bear.
“It is both your fault and not your fault at all,” he said, confusingly.
“They seemed mad because of me.”
“Of course they seemed mad. It is called emotion. It’s something expressed when someone feels something for someone else. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes it’s bad. But it shows they care for you. Although, sometimes too much emotion is not appreciated by anyone,” he said.
“Do you have emotion?” she asked the bear that stood before her.
“Of course I don’t. Where I come from we have no emotion. Besides, I am but a stuffed bear in a vest. What need have I for emotion?” he said with a laugh.
Time went on and years passed, and as Alice grew older so did her sister, but three years on she was still unfit for stimulating conversation. Good thing for Alice, then, Mr. Bearington was around almost everyday.
One morning, Alice suggested a tea party to Mr. Bearington, who found the idea wonderful. Alice also wanted to invite her father and mother.
“Father, join us for tea,” she said to him.
“I can’t,” he said. “Work. That’s what they call it anyway.”
“But, father, I want to have tea just like we used to in Little Tokyo,” she said, longingly.
This brought sympathetic feelings to her father, who leaned down and said, “When we get out of this place, we’ll go have tea and mochi everyday in Little Tokyo. I promise.” With that, he kissed her forehead and headed out the door.
She then asked her mother, who lay in bed, turned toward the wall.
“Mother, let’s have tea,” Alice suggested, but her mother said nothing and stayed in the position she had stayed in for months, as depression had gotten the best of her.
“Leave her be,” said the bear. “What tea shall we be having today?”
“Black. I really want green, but…” she said as she trailed off.
“But what?” the bear pressed.
“Green tea is too Japanese and the army men might get mad,” she said.
“Nonsense. Where I come from we drink green tea without fear of men in silly clothing. If you want green tea then we shall have green tea,” he said, and, with a smile, Alice made exactly that for her sister, herself, and her big, fluffy friend.
From time to time it would snow in this strange, un-Californian place, and it was extremely foreign to Alice, who came from a place that had no snow to speak of.
One such snowy day, Alice overheard her parents murmuring to themselves about something called a rumor, and the rumor they spoke of was about an end to the war and an end to their internment, whatever that meant.
Alice, not wanting to hear such confusing talk, went and sat near the door and watched the foreign snow fall all around her barracks. Mr. Bearington joined her.
“It’s like God’s dandruff,” she said, vocalizing her thoughts to Mr. Bearington—such is a young girl’s imagination.
“Poppycock,” Mr. Bearington retorted, “Where I come from we call this ‘free snow cones.’”
Alice’s face lit up with that familiar brightness and she immediately stood to run outside, before Mr. Bearington stopped her.
“My dear, where are you going?” Mr. Bearington asked.
“To eat free snow cones.”
“Why would you do such a fool thing? Everyone knows you have to get the flavoring from warm places like California first. Wait until you return home.”
“When will that be?” Alice asked, hopefully.
“Soon, I suspect,” was all he said.
One day, Alice awoke to find the place devoid of her old friend. She looked under the bed, and in the corner, but he was nowhere to be found. Finally, she ran to the door to see him walking away in the snow.
She ran after him screaming, “Where are you going?”
He turned and said, “I’m going home, back to where I came from.”
“But, you belong here,” she cried after him. “This is where you come from.”
He said nothing.
She continued to run, until she heard a voice say, “Stay right there or I’ll shoot!”
She did not care where the voice came from. All she cared about was her friend leaving her forever. So, she kept going.
“Come back, please!” she screamed, tears running down her face.
“Stop. I won’t warn you again!” said the scary voice from some high place.
But, Alice did not stop, running faster and faster until the thickness of the snow finally slowed her pace, causing her to trip face first into it.
“Don’t move. If you take one more step I will be forced to shoot you!” said that horrid voice, but Alice did not listen. She stood up, and was about to take that step she was told not to, when Mr. Bearington returned to her.
“Alice, I lied. Where I come from we have plenty of emotions and I have many for you,” he said, and he hugged her tightly as Alice cried into his big, furry belly.
“Where I come from, we hide our emotions. But you shan’t hide yours,” he said, and she nodded. “I shall be back one day, but for now, I must leave. Until then, have your fill of snow cones, use the bathroom accordingly, and drink lots of green tea, all without fear.”
“But, I have no one else,” she said.
“But, you do. You have your father, your sister, and your mother,” he said, and he pointed to the woman who was running toward them in the snow, screaming obscenities at the sky.
Alice turned her head to see her, but when she turned back, Mr. Bearington was no more, lost to the whiteness of the landscape.
As Alice’s senses returned to the present, she found herself crying into the stuffed animal, identified as Totoro, as her great-granddaughter looked at her in confusion.
“Why are you sad?” she asked Alice.
“I’m not sad. These are tears of happiness. I’m showing emotion,” she answered.
And Alice’s great-granddaughter, being a four-year-old child, seemed satisfied with this answer.
And so, Alice bought two of Totoro—one for her great-granddaughter, and one tear-stained one for herself—and the family visited the Go For Broke Monument and paid their respects to those that fought for their country, despite their circumstances, and a grand day was truly spent by all.



Inkshares: Crowdfunding for the Book World




I've just joined Inkshares. It's a crowdfunding site just like Kickstarter, although it's exclusively for book publishing. The way it works is once you enter the site you write a 20 word, or less, pitch for a book you've either written or plan to write. You can also post chapters of what you've written if you'd like. Members of the site or people visiting it can then read your pitch, and, if they decide they like it, can then pre-order your book. If you reach the 250 ore-order number that Inkshares set they will publish, market and distribute the book for you. You make 50% of the grosses for the printed version of your book, and 70% of the ebook sales. Similar to Kickstarter, if your book doesn't get funded the investors get their pledged money back, so it's very low risk for everyone involved. 

Twenty words for a pitch is restricting, but I've struggled with pitching and/or describing my books in short form for a while now, clumsily stumbling over words and sentences to try to describe my stories worlds only to end up losing the listener's attention shortly after I've started. It's frustrating, but at least this has given me a starting point, and hopefully I can polish my pitch from here on. I found a loophole for the 20 word pitch, though––if you write it on smart phone you can fit more words into its description. I did it for Autonomously, but I let it be for Bravadia. 

I'm using this site for the motivation to finish a children's adventure book I started a while back. I've finally given it a tentative title: The Bravadia Chronicles. I say tentative, but that title is starting to grow on me. I've also put my already-published-through-Amazon book, Autonomously Yours, on it for consideration and a little more exposure. It's a nifty site and an extra tool for self-publishers. I hope something good comes of this. 

I will share the pitches for each story below. 

The Bravadia Chronicles:
Young Tim and Kiana meet the mysterious girl Fawna and travel to the wondrous world of Bravadia where peril awaits.

Autonomously Yours - The Life of a Compandroid:
A robotics engineer. His creation: a compandroid, the world's first human-like female android. He and his robot assistant monitors her through her own eyes as she's "tested" by three men with dubious intentions.







Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"Imagine Little Tokyo" Short Story Contest entry: "A Little Piece of home."

This was a short story I wrote for a local short story contest entitled "Imagine Little Tokyo." Our instructions were to use Little Tokyo, a historic section of Los Angeles, as the setting for a short story. My story was titled "A Little Piece of Home", and it follows a young half-Japanese half-American girl as she tries to acclimate her cousin who's visiting from Japan to life in Los Angeles. I was a finalist in the running for 1st prize amongst 14 others who were also chosen. Alas, I lost, but it was fun writing this simple and, I think, sweet story. Enjoy!

A LITTLE PIECE OF HOME
My second cousin had been here for a week already and she still hadn’t quite gotten used to the way of life here.
Her name was Motoko and she was visiting from Tokyo, Japan. It was her first time abroad, and, of all places, Los Angeles would be her first exposure to anything foreign. I’ve spent all fifteen and a half years of my life here and even I still hadn’t gotten used to it. It hadn’t helped that my big ol’ American dad gave her a big ol’ American hug as soon as he greeted her at the airport—she didn’t know how to react to it, so she just bowed nervously toward him; and my mother, who, despite having the last name of Takahashi—as typical as a Japanese last name gets—is as culturally Japanese as California Rolls are. My mother and her siblings were all raised in Orange County and speak, maybe, seven words of Japanese combined. That number is probably smaller; I’m still wondering whether the words “sake,” “karate,” and “sayonara” even count anymore.
So, it was solely up to me to make Motoko feel at home, and I was failing miserably. I was a year away from being able to drive legally and I had never ridden on public transportation before, and was too scared to start now—I’ve heard horrible stories—so we had nothing but our feet to get us around.
I tried to introduce her to as much of my culture as I could. We went on walks around local parks and I took her to local fast food places—she didn’t want to go to McDonalds or KFC because she said they had a lot of those in Japan, so I took her to Taco Bell and the local In-and-Out. She made hand gestures and facial expressions that indicated she thought it was good; large eyes and a big smile mean the same in any country. As horrible as it may sound, this to me is what American culture is. But I was glad she liked it.
I hoped I was able to say she liked everything I showed her, but there was something wrong. With each passing day she seemed to get sadder and sadder. Four out of the seven days she had been here, I heard her crying at night during bedtime. I would ask her what was wrong in the Japanese I was able to teach myself the week before she came, which I was sure was horrible.
Doushita?” I would ask, in my American accent.
Nandemo nai,” she said as she waved me off trying, and failing, to stifle her sobs, but after a few ribbings I was able to get the word koishii out of her. I raced for my Japanese-English dictionary to look it up. It was the word for “missing” as in “missing my mother,” not as in “missing a sock.”
Just as I thought—she was homesick. When I asked her if she knew the word for “homesick” in Japanese she told me that they say the exact same thing, except with a Japanese accent. It was cute. I’d much preferred the way they said it. We share more language than I thought.
I’m a big fan of manga and anime, but all the books I had were the English versions, and all the DVDs I owned were dubbed as well. It did absolutely nothing to advance my Japanese skill, and did even less to soothe Motoko’s homesickness. When I showed her anime dubbed into English she said it was “hen,” which means “strange.” So, she just admired the pictures, even though she wasn’t able to understand anything going on.
Recently, some of my friends from school had told me of a trip they took to Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles and how wonderful it was. They told me of all the little snacks they bought and all the manga they read at a Japanese bookstore called Kino…something or other. That is a place I wanted to go to and that would be the place to take Motoko out of her funk. So, I tried to hit my dad up for a ride.
“Dad, Dad, I’m soooo glad to see you!” I said to my father as I ran into the living room when he came home.
“You’re never this happy to see me after work. What do you want?”
“I’m shocked, dad. Can’t a girl just be happy to see her own father?”
“Carrie,” he said as he looked at me suspiciously.
“Okay. Okay. Well, seeing as how Motoko only has three more days here, I was wondering if you could probably take us down to Little Tokyo. Probably. Maybe.”
“And when would you like me to do that?” he asked me.
“Um… Now?” I said with a voice so filled with hope.
“No can do, I have some work to finish up here.”
“Daaaad! Come on, she’s homesick,” I said.
“Oh, that’s what the crying was about,” said my mom, who had come in from the kitchen.
“You heard? So you know how sad she must be,” I said, as I grabbed Motoko close to me. I felt sorry for her. I could tell by the confused look in her eyes that she had no idea what we were talking about.
“Yeah, I feel for her.”
“Then you’ll take us?”
“No.”
“Moooom!”
“I just started dinner and by the time I’m done it’ll be way too late.”
It wasn’t looking good. I pushed ahead.
“Tomorrow then, dad?”
“Sorry, honey. I just started this project and I’ll be busy ’til the end of this month,”
I looked at mom with sad, adorable teenaged girl eyes, but she anticipated my question.
“Same here. I’m lucky I was able to come home early enough to make dinner today.”
I pouted, to no avail.
“How about dinner Sunday night downtown?” mom said.
“Awww, but all the shops will be closed by that time. I looked up some places I wanted to take her to. And that’s the night before she goes back."
“Then there’s only one thing to do,” my dad said.
“You’ll take us?” I asked with plenty of pep.
“No. You’ll just have to take the bus and the trains there,” he said. I gasped in horror.
“I can’t believe you would suggest a thing. Do you know what they do to little girls like me on the bus?”
“What, take your money and give you a ticket?”
“You won’t be joking when they call you down at the morgue to identify me.”
“Stop being so dramatic,” my mother said to me.
Clearly worried by my attitude, Motoko tugged my sleeve.
Doushita?” she asked me; it was the one word I was very familiar with.
"Densha, densha,” I said as I tried best as I could to explain, with my arms and hands, that we might have to ride a train. Then, suddenly, her eyes grew wide and she became very excited.
Densha ni noritai,” she said and clapped her hands. My dad understood her excitement, if not her words.
“That settles it. Tomorrow morning, you two are riding the train to Little Tokyo.”
“But, daaaad,” I tried to protest, but he just looked to Motoko, who then looked at me with her own set of adorable Japanese teenaged girl eyes, and I knew what I had to do.
“Just stick together and you’ll be fine,” he said as he dug into his pocket. He gave us each a hundred dollars to do with whatever we wished. Motoko tried to protest in a very Japanese way, but he would have nothing of it and pushed it on her. Me being American, I would have never refused free money; such are our differences.
The next morning, Motoko and I got dressed and headed out on our trip to Little Tokyo, our pockets full of money, our hearts full of enthusiasm—and mine with just a touch of fear.
We took the Redline, an underground subway system. Motoko looked so happy to be there at the station.
When the train came I stood directly in front of the door. But, as the doors opened, she pulled me to the side and, with hand gestures and Japanese I couldn’t possibly understand, showed me that the proper way was to stand on the sides and let people off the train, Japanese-style I assumed.
Once on the train, she pulled out her travel guide and began looking through it. We noticed a Japanese couple with the exact same guide. They noticed us and struck up a conversation with Motoko all the way until our stop. Truthfully, I felt a little left out, but it was interesting to see them interact.
When we got to our stop we waved goodbye to them and we made our way.
The first place we went to was Starbucks. I figured we should have a drink and make our plan. As we sat down at the outside tables I motioned that we should look at her guide again. But, as she pulled it out of her bag, she accidentally dropped it. Suddenly, a hand out of nowhere picked it up for us. The man attached to the hand was American, which was weird because what came out of his mouth was not English—he started speaking perfect Japanese to Motoko. She looked at me, her eyes big as two moons. I was curious as to what she was reacting to so I asked him.
“She’s so excited. What are you guys talking about?”
“Just general stuff. I’m a black guy in LA speaking Japanese. They tend to be surprised by that,” he said.
In my research I found out that the bookstore we wanted to go to was in a place called Weller Court, so I took a chance and asked him if he knew where it was.
“We’re in it, sort of,” he said.
“Oh. Do you also know where Kino… Kino…”
“Kinokuniya? Yeah, I know,” he said, and he pointed off into the distance. “You see that giant rocket over there? Go there and make a right and it’s on the second floor.”
We said our thanks, mine in English, Motoko’s in Japanese, and did just that.
When we got there we ran through the aisles and marveled at the large selection of manga and anime figures that they had. We looked through magazines and played with markers; we danced as Japanese pop flowed through the speakers up above; she showed me all of her own recommendations for manga, and I looked for the English-translated ones and bought five of them.
I remembered seeing a Japanese market just below Kinokuniya called Marukai, so we headed there and bought all the Japanese snacks and drinks we could; I bought old-fashioned Ramune, while Motoko bought something called C.C. Lemon.
When leaving, we saw a group of kids around our age hanging around the courtyard. That in itself wasn’t strange, but the funny thing was they were dressed as anime characters, some of which I instantly recognized. I walked up to them and asked them who they were, and they explained to me that they were part of an anime meet up group that met there every weekend. They invited me to join them sometime and I said that I would. They also fawned over Motoko and called her “kawaii,” the Japanese word for “cute.” She blushed so hard she was glowing red. I guess they had about as much experience with native Japanese people as I had.
After that, we explored an area called the Japanese village. She squealed when she saw the Yamazaki bakery; I think it’s a chain in Japan as well. We bought a couple of pastries for later; I bought a couple for my mom and dad, too. We walked by a place called Mitsuru CafĂ© that looked like it had been there for years. Motoko introduced me to “Imagawayaki,” a sort of Japanese pancake with red bean filling, and I was in love at first bite.
Next door there was a place that was the Mecca of many Japanese and American girl alike: a Sanrio store, home of everything Hello Kitty. We ran through it like a couple of tiny tornados. We bought tiny mirrors, Hello Kitty shaped erasers, and small Hello Kitty plushes. We were in Hello Kitty heaven.
On our way back through Weller Court we came upon a large white statue that looked like two entwined cigarettes. It was named the Friendship Knotaccording to the plaque under it. We tried to imitate it the best we could. Motoko threw her arms and thighs around me, but that looked awkward. When that didn’t work we got on the ground and tried it that way, and it worked much better. We laughed and laughed; people must have thought we were crazy, but we didn’t care. We had the time of our lives. A nice passerby even took our photo like that for us. It was one of my most fun memories.
It was getting late and all that running around made us hungry. I asked her what she wanted to eat in more badly pronounced Japanese.
Nani tabetai desu ka?” I said, but she looked at me disapprovingly.
“No desu ka. Kazoku dakara do not say desu ka,” she told me. “Kazoku” means family and what I said was too formal. She finally told me that she wanted ramen, and I agreed.
We went on a search for ramen, and a trip to the koban, a police station doubling as an information center, sent us to a place called Shinsengumi.
We got there and placed our order, and as soon as our customized ramen came to us, we ate it like it was our first meal ever. When we got both got down to the soup I looked over to see drops of what I thought were water falling into Motoko’s bowl. I looked up thinking there was a leak in the ceiling or something, but the leak was coming from Motoko’s eyes: she was crying into her broth.
Doushita, doushita?” I asked, frantically.
She shook her head and said, “Tada ureshii dake. Kono aji wa Nihon mitai na aji. Nihon ni iru mitai.” The only words I could understand were “ureshii” and “Nihon,” which meant “happy” and “Japan,” and I got what she was trying to say. They were tears of joy. She was reminded of home.
The next week came and it was time for Motoko to go home. At the airport she gave my dad a big ol’ American hug, Japanese-style, and did the same for my mom.
Sayonara,” I said, and she corrected me.
Mata kondo, not sayonara. Kazoku dakara.
“Yes. Kazoku dakara mata kondo,” I repeated.
We cried and hugged and said our goodbyes.
We’re family so I will see you next time, Motoko.