Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Because Words Can Change the World

By Hank Phillippi Ryan

I'm so proud to be a part of this marvelous project. Because words can change the world!

We've all sung along to We Are the World. All seen LIVE AID and FARM AID and we all know about Physicians Without Borders and all the other wonderful organizations that take what they know--music, or medicine , or sheer fame--and use it to help others.

So when the tsunami and earthquake and nuclear meltdown hit Japan--the amazing Tim Hallinan (you know him, right, he was an Edgar nominee this year for his incredibly good Queen of Patpong plus he's adorable AND brilliant) had the idea that we as writers-and readers--could use what we know (and love) to help.

(That was all one sentence with pretty elaborate punctuation. But you follow me, right?)

So he had this terrific idea to...well, let him tell it. Then I'll be back.

The Gods of Nature
by Tim Hallinan

The most ancient Japanese religion is Shinto.
The name is taken from two Chinese words, shin, meaning "spirit," and to, which is a derivative of tao (as in Taoism), a path or a course of study. So I suppose you could say it's a spiritual path of study. It's sometimes translated as "the way of the gods."

Shinto holds that the natural world is the home of kami, or spirits.

Many of them are spirits of place: stones, trees, hills, bodies of water.
The Japanese reverence for nature has its roots in Shinto.

This is a torii, a gate for the kami to pass through. They stand outside virtually every Shinto Shrine and also provide passageways for spirits of place in spots where their influence is strongest. Many of them stand in bodies of water.

On March 11 of this year, something unprecedented in modern memory rose up out of nature and struck Japan.

Following a massive earthquake, the waves invaded an enormous area in the northeast of Japan. In a matter of moments, both the natural and the man-made landscapes were altered, perhaps forever.

Watching the devastation, all I could think was that writers should be able to pool their talents to raise money as musicians and actors do. And it occurred to me immediately that we can. With the immediacy of e-books, writers can join together to try to bring some small solace in the face of tragedy. People who have lost children, parents, loved ones, friends, communities, livelihoods -- they deserve our best efforts, however humble.

Less than three months after the disaster, nineteen wonderful writers have donated their talent to make this possible.

This is a collection of original Japan-themed short stories, almost all written since March 11, inspired by the desire to help.

The writers who responded with such wonderful stories are:

Brett Battles
Cara Black
Vicki Doudera

Dianne Emley
Dale Furutani
Stefan Hammond

Rosemary Harris
Naomi Hirahara
Wendy Hornsby

Ken Kuhlken
Debbi Mack
Adrian McKinty

I.J. Parker
Gary Phillips
Hank Phillippi Ryan

Jeffrey Siger
Kelli Stanley
C.J. West and
Jeri Westerson.

Another fine writer, Gar Anthony Haywood, designed the cover.

Taken as a whole, these people have won every major mystery prize and sold hundreds of thousands of books.

Two remarkable translators of haiku, Jane Reichhold, whose 2008 volume translating all the haiku of the 17th-century master Basho has been hailed as a new standard, and David Lanoue, who has done beautiful translations of Issa, allowed us to use their renderings without charge.

Kimberly Hitchens and her first-class crew turned the manuscript into a beautiful a-book.

One hundred percent of the writers' royalties from the purchase go directly to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund administrated by Japan America Society of Southern California, which has already sent $750,000 to organizations working on the scene.


HANK: It was all Tim's idea. And each of us is honored to be part of it. Each story just had to have some reference to Japan. And as it turned out, each is very different--it's an irresistible array of stories. To illustrate--and to tempt you even more--here are a few snippets!

**Wendy Hornsby
"The Emperor's Truck"

One thing Eunice had learned very well during her internment was how to bargain. When you wanted something that was scarce – which was just about everything – you needed to come up with something useful to trade with, a compelling argument, and a quick finish. Too many deals got lost when people had time to think them over. So, here she stood, toe to toe with Mr. Antonelli, ready to bargain. She intended to get Papa’s truck back – his truck, not just a truck.


**Tim Hallinan "The Silken Claw"

Someone killed the big arc light, and beyond it, Kiyoshi saw his friend Kenji, waiting. Kenji looked like his ears were ringing, like someone had hit him in the face with a tree. Kiyoshi waited while a wardrobe woman unbuttoned his robe from behind and slipped it off his shoulders, and then, with the arc light still a dark flare at the corner of his vision, he found his way to the edge of the platform and down the steps.

“You're not working today?” Kiyoshi asked in Japanese.

“Sit down, Kiyoshi-san,” Kenji said. “It will be best if you sit down.”


** Cara Black "Mosquito Incense"

All of a sudden the shrill drilling of the telephone came between them. Her business-like voice answered.

Moshi mosh, hello.”

Her tone changed immediately. “Anata,” she breathed.

He could never get over how that Japanese pronoun anata, which meant ‘you,’ could mean so much. A simple pronoun. But the way a woman said it spoke volumes.


**Hank Phillippi Ryan "Father Knows Best"

I risked an email to Teri: “We’re problem-solvers. We should do something. But I can’t think of anything that’ll hurt her more than it’ll hurt us.”

Teri’s response popped up. “Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi.”

I turned to her, assuming it was one of her dad’s sayings, but not being able to read Japanese or whatever, that didn’t help. Of course I couldn’t say anything out loud, so I turned to her and made a face like, Huh?

She hit send. “It means: Fear is greater than the danger. An attempt is sometimes easier than expected.”

Did she think we should try something to, um, exterminate the Queen Bee? Like what?


HANK: Fun, huh? And really one of a kind.
And it's a wonderful, easy way to make a difference. Because words can change the world. Remember, 100 per cent of the authors royalties go to Japan Relief.

You can buy SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN as a Kindle e-book on Amazon right here
for only $3.99.

If you don't have a Kindle, you can download Kindle for PC here


  1. Oh, Hank, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! How cool that you and Rosemary (and everybody else) are part of this! Off to order my copy now . . .

  2. Oh, thanks, Judy. Yes, it;s pretty great. Everyone who buys it--feel great when they click the button. It really helps. xoox

  3. What a worth while project, Hank. And so one of kind. I hope you raise a bundle!!

  4. Awesome, Hank! Best of luck with this great project.