My friend Anita was kind enough to interview me. Have a look.
Originally posted on Anita's Haven:
Joseph Mark Brewer, the author of The Gangster’s Son, is here to talk about his writing method, combining the work of journalist and writer, and the challenges an author faces when planning an intricate plot of an exotic thriller. He will also announce the upcoming adventure of his signature detective Sato.
1. You write crime mysteries, involving plenty of plots and subplots. How much pre-planning do they require and is it difficult for you to balance plotted plans and creative freedom?
The mysteries require lots of planning for story structure and the whodunit aspect, but I don’t find it difficult to balance plot against creative freedom. I find creativity in dreaming up the crimes, the culprits, the scenarios, the dialogue – creativity within a structure, so to speak. I find thinking about what a character might say or do, what comes next, all of that to be very…
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My friend Lizzie is in South Sudan. Eye-opening to say the least.
Originally posted on Elizabeth Hamilton:
This morning, I awake in my net-covered bed to the sound of crickets chirping and a rooster crowing. I stumble into green flip flops, eyes half-closed, and lift the patterned curtain that serves as a door to the room I share with three other Seed Effect volunteers. I am still drowsy, still want more sleep, but when I see the gold tinted bulbous clouds and Alice, the sweet South Sudanese woman who wakes before dawn to cook eggs and flat bread for our breakfast, the sleep washes away and I am alert. I don a blue skirt, grey shirt (a shirt I’ve worn for four days now), my big round sunglasses and baseball cap. When I cross the compound, I see a group of kids pumping water from a nearby well. Another South Sudanese woman, whose name I haven’t learned yet but know as the woman who carries the baby…
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Really interested to know what you think of this.
STEP ONE: write a book.
You don’t need to know how to write, and it doesn’t have to be a great book. Don’t even think of it as a book. Think of it as a product. Based on their reviews, many of the writers on the Amazon Kindle freebie bestseller list don’t really know how to write, and many of those who do are giving away a single short story or essay, not an entire novel or nonfiction book. You don’t have to write a masterpiece, just something you can slap a title and cover on and call an e-book.
STEP TWO: give it an enticing title and a nice cover.
You don’t really have to know anything about book design. There are places you can buy premade covers for $50 or less. If you are low on a budget, Fiverr is a great place to get High Quality…
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Once upon a time I was in the Navy and I was sent to Japan. Knew nothing about the place. But after three years there I came to appreciate the people and the culture. I left Japan and mustered out of the Navy, finished college, and a few years after that, made my return, mostly as an adventure, because I knew such an opportunity would never occur again. I lived as an expat, fell in love and married and became a husband and a father before leaving again.
My life in Japan was not so very different from the usual foreigner’s experience. The first time there I was a GI, taking in a world I’d only seen on the pages of National Geographic. During my second stint I taught conversational English, edited textbooks and worked at an English-language newspaper to make ends meet. I have no gift for learning a foreign language, so I coped with my poor GI Japanese, but a keen ear and willingness to learn goes a long way.
One of the clearest, lasting memories I have is sitting in a park and watching a grandfather mind his granddaughter, who could not have been more than two years of age. As I looked around at the people in the park, I realized that people are the same the world over: grandparents love their grandchildren; parents scold their children, then hug the life out of the little dears. Teenagers seek out their own kind, finding independence in groups. Housewives gossip, commuters trudge along, students dream of school’s end.
Several short stories about of my days in Japan survived many reincarnations, and one character is now featured in my Shig Sato Mystery series set in Tokyo. And The Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake will soon be joined by Traitor’s & Lies, the third book in the series. You’re invited to download a copy – and sign up for my newsletter.
But what I’d like to conclude with is this: what has been your trip of a lifetime? And have you written about it? I’d like to know.
Do you remember where you were in 1991? Some of you do, of course, and some of you don’t. And one of the great thrills of reading is being taken to a time and place you may never have been: Paris, 1870; Dublin, 1904; Rome, 30 A.D.; A galaxy far far away — stories take us to memorable places with people and creatures that entertain us for hours.
In the Shig Sato Mystery series, the reader enters the world of Tokyo, 1991. A world capital, a center for government, entertainment, industry, diplomacy, a cavalcade of characters from the world over stepped onto the shores of the Land of the Rising Sun. It was a time of Japan Inc., riding an economic boom, the nation making its mark as an industrial leader. A city and a nation with a new emperor, a new vision for the future.
The world of Shig Sato was unique: a long-serving, highly respected police inspector, Sato returned to Azabu Police Station after two years of diplomatic security detail and security assignments for the Imperial Household Agency. Sato’s world was heart of Tokyo – the Imperial Palace, Roppongi, the embassy districts, and Sato knows every inch of it.
Roppongi: served by Sato’s beloved Azabu Police Station, isn’t so different now than it was in 1991. And Sato knew that among many of the foreigners out for a good time in that nightclub district were American servicemen, including some stationed with the U.S. Navy and Marine forces in Yokosuka, 37 miles down the coast. In the Shig Sato mystery The Gangster’s Son, Kimi Yamada’s beloved Cpl. Charlie Parker Jones is a Marine stationed on a American ship at the Navy base.
Sato’s return to Azabu Police station, the murder of Kimi Yamada, and his journey to finding the truth about her killer and himself make The Gangster’s Son “A highly readable murder novel with authentic Japanese flavor and a fresh, intelligent plot,” “Unique,” “Gritty. ”
Next time: Tokyo Inc.
To get a copy of my ebook mystery The Gangster’s Son click here . To get the latest news on Shig Sato Book 2 visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com — and sign up for my monthly newsletter. See you soon!
The police inspector knelt over the dead woman. He gently tilted her young, battered face. Her hair, dusty with debris, fell at odd angles. Sticky crimson blood oozed out her nose, ears, and mouth. One eye stared into the night, and what remained of the other was a swollen bloody mass. He pressed his finger against a plum-colored cheek split open. Some bone was still intact.
As he got up, he noted how her legs were oddly twisted beneath her. The sleeveless silk blouse and short black skirt she wore did not look disturbed. Nothing lay beside her. In the harsh crime scene lights, he thought the girl looked like a broken mannequin, carelessly discarded and alone.
It was a still, humid Tokyo evening, past midnight. Detective Ken Abe watched Inspector Shig Sato. Five minutes had passed since Sato said he wanted to take another look at the body. Abe wondered if his friend had lost his ability to concentrate, with his wife so ill, and this being his first night back in Criminal Investigations after two years of diplomatic security duty.
“Inspector?” Abe believed he hid the concern in his voice.
Sato raised his hand to shade his eyes from the blinding lights.
Abe pulled a cigarette from his lips.
Sato took another long look at the young woman, walked over to Abe, and said, “She was probably surprised, then beaten and left for dead. Probably dropped to the ground where she stood.”
Abe was relieved to see Sato focusing on the crime, putting what he saw into some sense of order.
“You said she’s a waitress at the jazz club?” Sato asked.
“Yep. Right in there,” Abe said, pointing at a neglected brown door. “A jazz club. Called the Down Low.”
There were many scattered anonymous doors along the alley. Some led to long, narrow, dim bars selling grilled chicken and beef on sticks to whet the appetite of the tired businessmen drinking beer after lonely beer. The meat’s lingering aroma, the grease, the alcohol, the sweat of the cooks, all clung to the thick night air. Behind other doors, sushi denizens had watched countermen slice their tuna and eel and octopus, caress their roe and rice, priests preparing their offerings. In tiny cabarets with low and plaintive jukeboxes, hostesses rested their aching feet while night managers quickly counted the evening take after rousting patrons from their drunken stupors.
The inspector saw these doors, once open in the vain hope of catching a midnight breeze, now closed tight against the bad luck that came with a dead body.
“It is too quiet here,” Sato said to himself. He did not like the quiet, not in that part of Tokyo, on the fringe of nightclubs and cabarets and bars and restaurants, that place where two alleys met, where a girl lay dead.
Sato took another look at the dead girl, then turn toward the medical examiner.
“It looks like somebody struck her across the face so hard it snapped her head back against that concrete wall,” the doctor said. A slight, bald, fidgety man, the doctor was truly at ease only when performing an autopsy. He hated making definite statements at crime scenes, but knew Sato needed to hear something. “Blunt force. Caused some type of bleeding in the skull, I’d say. And then maybe something snapped. She slumped to the ground, and that was it.”
Sato looked back at the body, then at the doctor, and paused before asking, “No one moved her, touched her in any way?”
“No!” If it had been anyone other than Sato, the doctor would have been insulted.
“Any signs of resisting? Bruising? Rape?”
“I don’t know.” The doctor hesitated, scratching his ear. “Her underclothes don’t look like they’ve been disturbed, and there’s nothing strange about her thighs or buttocks. I mean, there’s no strange marks or bruises. Like I said, it looks like she just dropped. Some kind of smack in the face, her head hits the wall. Probably burst something in her brain. Anyway, it probably shut down her central nervous system. That’s probably what killed her. We’ll know more later.”
Abe watched as Sato talked to the medical examiner. He watched Sato’s face harden as the doctor gave his assessment.
“She was pretty,” Abe said.
Sato turned to look at the girl once more.
“What was she doing in a dark alley so late at night?” he asked. “What could have happened that would lead to this?”
“This is Roppongi,” Abe said. “She probably liked the excitement. Nightclubs. Music. Lots of strange new people.”
“People.” Sato grunted.
“This club has a lot of foreigners come listen to jazz.”
Sato frowned. “Foreigners.”
“Young girl looking to meet foreigners, maybe have an adventure.”
“Adventure.” Sato shook his head.
“Hey, Tokyo’s booming,” Abe said. “It’s 1991. Things are good. Lots of people come here from all over the world, looking to make money, have a good time.”
“Maybe she had a boyfriend,” Sato said. “Maybe a jealous boyfriend.”
“Maybe a secret admirer,” Abe said.
(Read more here.)
Joseph Mark Brewer is author of the Shig Sato Mystery series. You’re invited to visit his web site, www.josephmarkbrewer.com. You can get your copy of The Gangster’s Son by visiting Amazon at
A reader discovering the world of Shig Sato will soon learn that food becomes in interesting side character – Miki’s breakfast of miso soup and rice, Abe’s early life growing up in a ramen shop, Ses Fujimori’s love of okonomiyaki, Shig’s lunchtime katsudon, even Mos Hishida’s nickname, a result of his steady diet of Japanese-style hamburgers. Any reader not familiar with Japanese cuisine might wonder at it all. In truth, the food of Japan is as simple as it is varied.
The simple: fish and rice. But is that really all there is? It doesn’t begin to encompass the world of sushi, much less the whole of Japanese cuisine. The popular Japan Talk website lists 100 types of sushi. Notice that fish, vegetables, eggs, meat – it’s all included. Sushi, sashimi, maki – it can take minutes to prepare, a lifetime to master.
The importance of rice in Japanese culture cannot be overstated. The language uses the word gohan for “meal” as well as “cooked rice.” Gohan is a part of each word signifying breakfast, lunch and supper. In feudal times, wealth was measured how much rice one possessed and peasants were keenly appreciative of a payment in rice for their labor – coins were no good to them when they had to eat. Japan’s propensity for natural disasters, and it’s involvement in war, often led to a scarcity of food. Rice stockpiles were worth fighting for.
As an nation comprised of many islands large and small, a reader would be right in thinking that all types of seafood is a part of the Japanese cuisine, from the common tuna to the exotic – pufferfish, anyone?
What many Western readers of the Shig Sato series may not realize is that farming – livestock, grain, vegetable, fruit, any combination and variety – can be found in most of the nation’s 47 prefectures. Almost any grocery store or market will have fresh local produce, seasonal fruit, cuts of meat and poultry, and packaged foods like curry mixes and spices. (When my in-laws came to visit from Canada, flour and vanilla were found and donuts were produced in an afternoon!)
One may not think of baked goods when thinking of Japanese cuisine, yet the tasty sweets and snacks appeal to young and old. And it doesn’t take much to find pan – bread – and some have even embraced the staple, when it’s made with rice flour.
The varied: Being an international city, Tokyo is home to an array of dining experiences any world traveler would appreciate. Michelin stars are not unknown in the city. Gourmets and foodies alike can find were the finest food is served, and also the stores that sell the products for those daring and talented enough to create at home.
Regional specialties abound. I’ll conclude with this list of a prefecture’s favorite dish. See if you don’t recognize some, and have probably eaten some others (and some not!).
Hokkaido – Grilled mutten
Aomori – Sea urchin and abalone
Miyagi – Oysters
Fukushima – Pickled herring
Ishikawa – Turnip sushi
Gifu – Potatoes with sweet chestnuts
Nagano – Buckwheat dumplings
Aichi – Deep fried chicken wings
Tochigi – Giyouza (potsticker) dumplings
Chiba – Steamed peanuts
Kanagawa – Curry
Mie – Lobster
Shiga – Duck hot pot
Osaka – Okonomiyaki
Tottori – Snow crab
Tokushima – Buckwheat porridge
Nagasaki – Sasebo burger (thanks to the navy base there)
Kukamoto – Sliced horsemeat
Miyazaki – Kyushu-style fried chicken
Okinawa – Fried pork belly
To get a copy of The Gangster’s Son click here . To get a copy of Shig Sato Book 2 The Thief’s Mistake visit my Smashwords page or Kindle page or visit my website www.josephmarkbrewer.com— and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and enter the World of Shig Sato.