Showing posts with label White Crane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label White Crane. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014

An Excuse and a Repost: When a Series Ends

I looked at the date on my last blog post and its a very significant one - a week before my total thyroidectomy operation. I had an excellent surgeon but unfortunately there were complications and I hemorrhaged so had to have a second turn in theatre. Recovery took longer than I expected and it wasn't over then. My operation was to remedy swallowing difficulties because of right lobe nodules and the strong possibility the left lobe would cause the same  problems within a few years. After the pathology was done, cancer was found in the supposedly currently innocent left lobe. So I had radioactive iodine therapy and a week in isolation while I was "hot property".

I admit I enjoyed that week because I had time for lots of writing - no-one was allowed near me! I would have preferred a different reason of course but it was all good in the end as I am now cancer free, subject to a lifetime of annual testing for recurrence.

So that is my blogging excuse for the empty months and while I am not big on making excuses I think I had a good one this time.

To kick off a new year of better heath and blogging I am reposting a favourite piece I wrote for the now defunct Walker Book Walk-A-Book blog. I want this piece to have permanent home on the Internet because it lives in my heart every day. I never realised how it would feel when the Samurai Kids series ended. I knew the time had come but it still hurt to let go.

Even now, six months after the last book in the series was published, the Kids still talk to me.

When a Series Ends
I’m currently working on the last book in the Samurai Kids series. I feel a bit sad. Not because the series is ending. I know the timing for that is right. Samurai Kids opened doors for me as a writer, it won awards and brought me a flood of feedback from enthusiastic fans. The story – its journey and its telling -  feels complete.

So why am I sad? Because I know I’ll miss the Kids and I hate to think I’ll never hear their voices in my head again. They argue and fight all the time, but they are the best of friends and they like to gang up on me. They do as they please and have no respect for my role as the author.

Some adult readers have wondered at my choice of a modern tone for the 17th century Samurai Kids’ voices. I think that makes history more accessible to young readers. But to be honest it wasn’t my idea, that’s how the kids speak to me.

The stories grew out of my passion for ancient history, Japan and swordsmanship. I knew that to be a samurai, you had to born into a samurai family. And the children of a samurai family had no choices – it was their destiny to bear a sword. But everyone wanted to be an elite samurai so that part didn’t matter. Or did it? What if you wanted to be a samurai but weren’t very good at it? What if no amount of training would help because it wasn’t something you could change? What if you were born with one leg?

That’s when Niya, the one-legged narrator of the Samurai Kids series, first spoke to me. See for yourself, he said. So I went into my backyard and tucked up one leg. To my surprise I had assumed  the White Crane stance, a form common to a number of martial arts. That’s right, said Niya. I am the White Crane, really good at standing on one leg. Now give it a try and see what it’s like to be me.

I accepted Niya’s challenge. I did a flying one-legged karate kick and landed flat on my face. I had found the first lines to Niya’s story.

I scissor kick high as I can and land on my left foot. I haven’t got another one. My name is Niya Moto and I’m the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan. Usually I miss my foot and land on my backside. Or flat on my face in the dirt.
I’m not good at exercises, but I’m great at standing on one leg. Raising my arms over my head, I pretend I am the great White Crane. ‘Look at me,’ the crane screeches across the training ground. ‘Look at him,’ the valley echoes.

Niya laughed at me sprawled on the ground. Then he began to tell me about his friends -  Mikko, Yoshi, Nezume, Kyoko and Taji – and how they all struggled to become samurai despite their disabilities. He told me about their teacher - wise, eccentric Sensei Ki-Yaga, once a legendary warrior. A man who saw their strengths and ignored their weaknesses and taught them the power of working together. Or gently rapped them over the ears with his travelling staff if they didn’t pay enough attention.

Niya confided to me that he thought Kyoko was really pretty. And that sometimes he could hear Sensei talking inside his head. Sensei would talk inside my head too. He would whisper oddly-slanted words of wisdom to make me laugh. Put it in the book, he would say. I’m really very funny. I often didn’t get to write what I wanted to. The kids had their own ideas. I wouldn’t say that. I’m much too brave, Mikko would insist. He’s right you know, Yoshi would agree. Kyoko would get cranky with me if I didn’t let her win all the wrestling matches. I’m a better samurai than those boys. Taji would patiently make suggestions, a blind kid who showed me a different way to look at things.

And when I tried to take them on a journey to India, they refused to go. They had traveled to China, Korea and Cambodia, and now they wanted to go home. That’s when I knew it was time to write the last book. The Kids want to make sure that I get this book right. Even now they’re banding together to convince me I need an epilogue. So readers will know what happened to us. And they want to make sure I reveal Sensei’s secret the way they think is best. They admire him heaps but even more importantly, they love him a lot.

As I type, I can still hear Niya’s voice. Do you think I would ever go away? What about writing a sequel? What about a series all about me? I’m going to be a teacher, just like Sensei. There’ll be a new generation of Samurai Kids. My kids. He sighs. It won’t be the same you know. The golden age of the samurai has come to an end. But I’ve got some ideas. Really big ideas…

For an author, imagination has a way of blurring into reality. Who are you calling not real? the Kids demand to know. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Nevada Young Readers Award

The best thing about writing for kids is feedback from young readers. Kids know how to make an author feel like they have written the most wonderful book in the world.

I love to hear that kids are enjoying my books so I am particulary thrilled to learn Samurai Kids: White Crane has been shortlisted for a kid's choice award in Nevada US. It is one of five titles nominated by children for the Nevada Young Readers Award  in 2013.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keira High Iquanids

Year 8i (code name Iquanids), an all boys English class at Keira High School, is reading Samuari Kids: White Crane with their teacher. Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend an hour with the boys talking about being an author, the Samurai kids series and books in general. There were lots of insightful questions,

Look at the beautiful flowers they gave me! Japanese theme complete with two large bamboo stems that I am going to keep and use when I do samurai dress-ups in some of my Stage 2 presentations.  I also received a big, beautiful card that they all wrote messages on. And Ciaran gave me some of his haiku.

This one is my favourite. It's called The Blizzard.

Freezing cold whiteness
Blowing fiercely and strongly
Showing no remorse.

No wonder I always come away from school visits inspired all anew.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I love feedback like this *grin*

The wonderful feedback I get for the Samurai Kids series never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes it even makes me cry. I am a big sook from way back. I cry in my own books. "You are so lame, Mum," my kids say.

I couldn't help but tear up when I read this Facebook post:
"It's been a wonderful journey for us and our two boys, 9 and 7, too - your wonderfully spare, but evocative, writing, the effervescence of the characters, Sensei's wisdom, the cameraderie of the kids, the humour, the lessons on life and the dialogue. Phrases such as 'practice, more practice' already part of family lexicon and likely to be there for ever. Wonderful wonderful books. Thank you! "

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 17, 2010

It's taken me a year and a half to work it out - but then I am a slow learner - finally I have realised what I should be blogging about. It was right under my nose all the time. 'This blog is about my personal experience in the (stories are) light' my blog header promised. Except I never did that. I tried to be all the things I wasn't. Now I am going to concentrate on what I am. I am a puddler. I write short bursts in between long stretches of thinking. I am a cyber-flit hopping from blog to blog, giggling and learning. I spend half my life inside my head and I like it in there. I think with my heart and my gut. I am an obsessive wordsmith.

So from now in this blog is about all the little bits and pieces of this writerly journey. Starting with last week.

I reread Margo Lanagan's TENDER MORSELS. First time round I had mixed feeling. Parts I loved. Parts I cried to have written. Some bits I didn't like and others I just didn't get. But I kept the book. It was confronting and it made me think a lot. I was still thinking about it when I picked it up again this week. And I loved it. This is a book that grows with the reader. I am richer for reading it. Now I am reading TALLOW by Karen Brooks

I completed the first complete draft of Samurai Kids 6, tentatively titled Golden Bat and rumoured to be 'the blue one'. While I am sorry to see the end of this book (lots more to come in the series though) I am super keen to get started on my new project. It's unlike anything I've written before and it keeps invading my head space.

On Tuesday I had my first shakuhachi flute lesson with Dr Riley Lee who I initially interviewed as part of my research for White Crane. You can read the interview here. I can now produce a consistent note - and it wasn't an easy journey to get that far! Next I have to be able to hold it for 30 secs and I am only managing 13 secs. But I am determined. Maybe I will post a sound file soon.

On Saturday I spent 2 hours in a writing workshop with 16 keen kids. Two of them had driven for 2 hours to get there! If the kids had half as much fun as I did the afternoon was a huge success. Some very impressive pieces were read out and that night a mum emailed me to say her son was in his room writing. The workshop was part of Wollongong City Gallery's Just Imagine program 'which encourages children’s creative writing skills by the exploration of real and imagined worlds experienced through close engagement with art'.

Did you know you can knit a Dalek? Thanks to Alice Bell I found a pattern here: (I am not much of a knitter these days but still a huge Dr Who fan). And here are some great book recommendations thanks to Fiction Focus who pointed me to Why the Wierd Books Matter. I've added GOING BOVINE by Libby Bray, PUNKZILLA by Adam Rapp and THE WHITE DARKNESS by Geraldine Mccaughrean to my must read list

WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON had popped up on my radar before but this is the
blog post at FairfieldBooks on Station that made me go out and buy it. The Book Chook provided me with some great on-line history resources.

Frane Lessac and mark Greenwood's Ned Kelly and the Green sash. Enough said. Have a look.

This week I got a Gold Certificate from Engadine High School for 'attending the Year 5,6 &7 Literacy Linkages Program and for being a fabulous, inspirational and interesting speaker'. Do I feel proud? Yes I do. More about the day here

Jaguar Warrior: Set 500 years ago in Aztec Mexico, this gripping and gory adventure will have you on the edge of your seat - DMAG, May Issue

Jaguar Warrior: This is a fast moving, intriguing book, where not everything is at it seems and the true motives for some character’s actions aren’t immediately obvious. - ABC Book reviews by Deb Abela

Jaguar Warrior: This is a great adventure, which will appeal to those who enjoy sport and love to run – as the front cover says ‘nothing will stop him’ - Virginia Lowe, Create a Kids Book

White Crane: I thought this was the best book ever! It is good because you can't tell what will happen next and there are some facts about samurai life. ... I give it 5 out of 5 - James, Year 6 who read it for the VIC Premiers Reading Challenge The Age Education resource Centre

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Storytelling Maths: One book = One series

"What if you had to write another Samurai Kids book and you couldn't think of anything?" a Year 6 boy asked. "Oh that could never happen," I said.

Or could it?

I've always had a safety net to protect me from worrying about this. Samurai Kids White Crane began with just one sentence: "My name is Niya Moto and I'm the only one-legged samurai kid in Japan." Another one soon followed. "Famous for falling flat on my face in the dirt." And for a long time that's all I had. That and the increasing desire to tell Niya's story - his friends, his teacher, his school and his adventures. I always figured if a book could come from a sentence than surely a series could come from one book.

Because White Crane was a stand-alone story (originally titled Samurai Kids) there were no hooks in place for future stories. But I did have a rich cast to work with - six very different characters each with their own idiosyncrasies and spirit guide - and their eccentric but much loved teacher. I had the action and adventure of samurai and ninja. I had swords, shuriken stars, and a quiver full of arrows.

And then I discovered an accidental hook after all. In White Crane Niya thought Sensei might be a Tengu - a mountain goblin priest with supernatural abilities. Was he? And if he was, what did he do? A human becomes a Tengu as a result of some terrible deed. Now I had a problem - I never intended to answer this question. In fact I didn't even know the answer. But if there were more books, it was obviously the key to many things. I do know the answer now but I can't tell you or I would have to give you a Wakizashi dagger and a seppuku mat and well... if you know the rest - it's rather painful and messy. So you are better off not knowing.

In Samurai Kids: Owl Ninja the kids travelled across Japan and learn ninja skills. They faced the Dragon Master once again. The final chapter saw them standing on the shore, a greater journey about to begin. From here, the series started to tell itself. The geography of the journey dictated the next stop, the location dictated the martial arts skills that the Kids would learn and Sensei's history created obligations and risks.

When the Kids went to China in Samurai Kids: Shaolin Tiger, history put them in a time and place when the Hwang Ho River was due to flood Kaifeng, the Shaolin Temple was under threat from the Imperial army (and would soon be destroyed), the Mongols were threatening to invade and the Manchu were on the horizon. How could I not find a story there? Especially when Qing-Shen walked in. Tall dark and dangerous, Sensei's Chinese ex-student had a vendetta to carry out.

I didn't intend it to happen but although each book is told by Niya, the plot revolves around a different Kid. Probably because they are all equally good friends. Each step the Kids take into another book, the story writing process is no different. Samurai Kids: Monkey Fist is set further north, in The Forbidden City of Beijing. Like a good reporter I follow Sensei and the Kids around and write what I see. And what Niya and Sensei tell me to. Right now I'm writing Samurai Kids:Fire Lizard and we're in Korea.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SAMURAI KIDS in a spin

Now that I'm an expert at embedding YouTube videos here's another one I found. I recognised the book immediately *grin* And no I didn't make this. A much more clever 18-year-old called JSJCB did (according to the profile):

Monday, July 13, 2009


What My Children Are Reading is a meme hosted by The Well Read Child. It's a terrific idea about sharing what your kids are reading and a great way to get ideas from other bloggers for new books to read with your children. Your posts can be a list of books you're reading with your kids, books your kids are reading on their own, old favorites that get picked up again and again, summaries of your favorite books you love to read together, books you just started reading with your kids, etc.

#1 son is reading Meet the Aliensons: Freak Street by Knife and Packer. It's wonderful fun and that's no less than he would have expected as it was chosen for him by Ruth at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft. Ever since I met Ruth at the launch of White Crane and she sent me home with two Beast Quest books as her recommendation, #1 son has regarded her as his personal book buyer. He often says to me "Ask Ruth. She knows what books I like." She does. And it only underlines the importance of specialist children's booksellers or sales staff with a background in children's books. To the buying parent these people are invaluable.

#2 son has just finished The Way of Shadows, the first book in the Night Angel fantasy trilogy by Brent Weeks. He gave it to me to read and then harrassed me until I did. "It's that good mum." He never says that about books. So I read it. It was that good. "The perfect killer has no friends, only targets." the by-line said. And I want to add a second one: "The perfect assassin has no targets, only deaders." Dark, gothic, chilling, engrossing. And the eerie thing was - it was exactly the sort of book I loved at his age. It had my two key teen book criteria - fantasy and thick. In those days I didn't get to the library that often but I had plenty of time to read. My mother didn't allow homework ('homework is set by teachers who don't do their job properly in the day', she said) - but then she didn't allow much at all. So books had to last. They had to take me away from everything. I'm hanging out until #2 son finishes #2 book.