12 April 2012

On the subject of Aiko...

No, wait! There's more!

As Life requires, I have tended to the existing matters and put off the pre-existing matters. Said in a less existential way, it is time to turn from what has been written to what needs to be written. Said in still another way, which I trust may be more easily understood: I have completed my novel AFTER ILIUM (via Fantasy Island Book Publishing) and it has been published as an ebook (December 2011) and now returning in print, available at Amazon. My novel A BEAUTIFUL CHILL (via Shelfstealers) is in the process of being published, due out sometime in the fall. My sci-fi trilogy THE DREAM LAND started then too soon sputtered in the ABNA competition and so is on hiatus. A spat of academic/scholarly writing as part of my academic/scholarly job has taken a fair portion of time and energy so far this year, as well.

Which leaves me with my main project of this year: the complete rewrite of my novel AIKO.

Early in my adulthood I became enamored by Japanese culture, enough so to accept a job in Japan where I taught English to hundreds of students in the public middle schools and high schools in two locations (Saga, then Okayama), each with multiple schools. It was a thoroughly exhilarating and often frustrating endeavor that both rewarded my curiosity and provided me with a suitcase full of memories. I had plans to return for a third job but, again, Life had other plans for me.

During my first visit of two years, however, I wrote a novel based on a synthesis of two sources. The first was a then-recent news story about a love affair gone wrong. That was interesting enough, in a ghoulish way, but it reminded me of another, older story: the tale of Madame Butterfly. The first story involved a girl who had drowned herself as a way to get back at the boy who rejected her. The second story is the well-known one made into an opera by Giacomo Puccini, itself based on an earlier story by John Luther Long in 1898. In the opera, a Japanese woman falls in love with an American man, has a child, but is subsequently rejected  by him, leading her to suicide as a way to "save face."

I've seen the opera performed live two or three times and among the less-liked genre of opera it would have to be my favorite--musically and story-wise. Even after the first performance, however, I wondered one thing: What was the guy thinking? In my novel, I explore the man's side of the situation. What would he be thinking? How would he see the situation? Perhaps he was not the bad guy he was made out to be. I also modernized it, placing it in the 1980s and had the story involve an affair between a hotel contractor in Hawaii and a stewardess (yes, in the 1980s they were still called stewardess). Most of the "present-day" story happens in Ishikawa. I suppose you could guess the rest of the story; it's been done a thousand times. I hope to put particular spins on it that make it unique in and of itself.

But it needs a complete scrubbing...more than an edit but less than a total rewrite...to bring it up to publishable quality. With my upcoming trip to a conference in Japan, post-cherry blossom season, it seems a perfect opportunity to launch the revision project. The novel is, after all, a spring tale, so writing it as spring unfolds makes the effort much more rewarding, and perhaps also a little easier. Stay tuned for the amazing result, sometime towards the end of summer.

(And if I should need a break, I'll return in brief efforts to the third volume of THE DREAM LAND trilogy, just to gain some perspective. Or I'll dabble on my other summer novel, YEAR OF THE TIGER, which needs a similar complete scrubbing to lift a younger effort into publishable status).

Here is my presumptive book blurb for AIKO:

The illegible handwriting of the letter from Japan was a curiosity at first, but Benjamin Pinkerton could not help but flash back to 1986. He had been overseeing the opening of a hotel in Honolulu when he met Hanako, a Japanese stewardess. But Addy, Benjamin’s wife of three years, knows the answer: a love child was born!

Now Benjamin must choose to save a child he has never met, learn the truth behind Hanako’s death, and risk his marriage and his career to do what he believes is the right thing. But finding his way around the Japan of 1990 is a frustrating and confusing journey. Venturing into the lonely woods of northern Ishikawa throws him into an ancient world of strict customs and tight-lipped villagers.

As Benjamin struggles to unravel the mystery, he must make peace with an old woman, keep a crazy waitress happy, make friends with gangsters, and get help from an American expatriate and a Japanese doctor if he is to bring home his daughter, Aiko. If he has any home left....

AIKO is a modern updating of the classic Madame Butterfly story, this time told from the man’s point of view.

Here is the tentative book cover for AIKO:

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