Saturday, 29 December 2012


Kiyomizudera, Kyoto

Hi Folks

This post has been a long time coming and was first proposed by a reader of this blog who was particularly interested in the snippets of information about travelling in Japan that appeared on my blog. I usually don't post this often but page views have gone through the roof recently so I guess there are people out there hungry for some new material to read. If you read 'm, I'll write 'm.

When I started this post, I thought there wouldn't be much to say and now I realise that there is just so much you can write about - maybe too much - and that everyone is doing it. In fact, one of the reasons I wrote my first novel,  Memoirs of a Vending Machine  was that I wanted to share my unique experiences but really didn't want to write another travel book to add to the stockpile of unread travel books published as ebooks so I wrote some literary fiction. The book is doing fine now and you can read about my difficult  journey in previous posts. Compared to others however,  the book  hasn't gone as well as I had hoped so as far as travel writing goes,  I might as well join 'em 'cause I sure as hell could't beat 'm.

Secretly, travel writing is something I have wanted to dabble in for a while now as I have been to Japan so many times now and I really do relish the opportunity to share my experience and my view. Because there is so much to say, I have decided to break this up into a series of posts and see where that leads. I intend to start of with a series of recommended things to do in Kyoto and give commentary on how I have gone about this and anything else that I think would be worth knowing. Then I'll see where idea takes me.

To begin with and by way of explanation, the reason I have been to Japan so much is that my wife is Japanese. We met in Japan, lived there for quite a few years, had two kids and kept a pet turtle before coming to Australia to live. I taught Japanese at High School after coming back and ended up organising a school trip to Japan every year after for 10 years or so. In some years, I did  three or four trips that included, visiting relatives, participating in langauge exchange or professional development as well as the school trips. My favourite place on field trips became Kyoto.

Heads up, I am NOT an expert and this is NOT a travel log per se - this is just Kyoto from my perspective and you are free to take my advice or leave it, although I have done Kyoto quite a few times. Please don't rely only on this post and make sure you get a map and do some research yourself before embarking on the tour I suggest.

What I really like about Kyoto is the old world charm that remains despite the new world hustle and bustle that pervades Japan. It is a sort of sophisticated chaos that lends itself to art and expression. There is no denying that amongst the Japanese, Kyoto is a very cool place to live or to have come from and just talking about the place elevates any conversation to a higher level.

It is famous as the first Japanese capital. In fact, the Kanji characters used to write the name Kyoto translate to capital city. Kyoto is full of temples.Of note are Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, Ryouanji and Sanjyusangendo. Nijo Castle is good for a look and some of you may be familiar with the nightingale floorboards referred to in many novels about Japan. An absolutely stunning photo can be taken at Fushimi Inari Shrine.  I would prioritise Kiyomizu Dera and have chosen this as the first must-see destination to write about.

I've found that the best way to do the Dera (Tera = temple) is to walk there. I know, taxis are easy, the bus would be a unique experience and a tour bus would be perfect but what you won't do if you take the easy way out is to walk the walk along the back streets that are the real Kyoto. This is where the old world charm is locked away and to get that, you need to walk. There is no rule in existence that states that a tourist in Kyoto must walk fast. I won't lie to you, there are some challenging hills to conquer but if you pace yourself and rest along the way, you will be rewarded - and the walk will do you some good.

 Note the following entrance fees and opening times. Better check about current renovations and how this will affect your visit during 2013 before you go.

Hours:6:00 to 18:00Closed:No closing daysAdmission:300 yenSpring and Fall IlluminationHours:18:30 to 21:30 (mid March to mid April and mid November to early December)Admission:400 yen

So to do the walk, it is best to assemble your minions at Yasaka Jinjya before embarking on this epic journey. It's fairly central and prominent on any map of Kyoto. This is a particularly beautiful place at night and if you have a nearby hotel, I would recommend a look at the end of an evening stroll.  I always try to get a hotel somewhere along or near to Shijo Dori because it is smack bang in the middle of everything cool and gives me easy access to Teramizu Dera at the east end of Shijo Dori. The temple is an easy walk or as little as a couple of stops by bus if you get  hotel that is a little too far down the Dori. If you are happy to pay the 600 yen surcharge for a 1 minute taxi ride, you may also wish to do this. On the way, you can visit the Gion District or Pontocho, the famous tea house street - but I'll save that for another post. I will also mention the Philosopher's Path, Kyoto Handicraft Centre, Kyoto Station and the Kyoto Imperial Palace but but I'll look at these places another time. I have stayed at a Ryokan or two and suggest a nice place to stay but I'll save this for another post as well.

I have stayed at the Kyoto Central Inn a couple of times. It's small but reasonable and so convenient to everything. The foyer is a good assembly area for groups and there are laundry facilities here. They seem pretty good about foriegners. If you are with a group, it's best to get yourselves booked on the same floor but you'll find that the staff will generally do this anyway. Be careful to get the back rooms, accessed at the rear of the front desk as the front rooms are old and only marginally bigger than a cupboard, although the twins are pretty good for teenagers or couples that aren't too fussy. If you are on a budget, this may suit you and all the facilities you need are there, including your own tiny shower and a TV. You'll have to eat out but that's the idea isn't it? It is pretty much a quick left out of the Hankyu line's Kawaramachi exit 6 and is so convenient to Shijo/Kawaramashi for shopping or for the teahouse street of Pontocho -  and for getting around the rest of Kyoto and Osaka.

Another favourite of mine is the Karasuma Kyoto Hotel just  a little further away from Yasaka Jinjya but it gives you good access to Tera Machi which is great for food and shopping and the Nishiki Market. It is pretty much a hop skip and a jump from the Shijo stop of the Karasuma subway. If you are really lazy, you can get a bus on Shijo Dori a round the corner and ride a few stops to the Gion stop which is opposite Yasaka Jinjya  or catch a taxi as there is a rank nearby.There are a couple of tricky train swaps to get to Kyoto station but the hotel is awsome (by my standards, anyway). The price is quite reasonable and there are a shed load of amenities and services. I booked a floor for a group a couple of years ago and found the triple room a pretty good option for a bunch of teenagers. Oh - it is really hard to top the Starbucks virtually placed on the hotel's doorstop and there are restaurants and convenience stores near by. These hotels are fairly budget priced and there are much more expensive hotels available. I'll talk about other places I know about in subsequent posts.

Anyway, back to Kiyomizudera; Walk in through the main entrance and don't forget to look back to take in the view of modern Kyoto along Shijo Dori. (makes a nice holiday snap) There is a kink in the pathway to the right so just follow and when it straightens up, you just walk ahead to the other side of the temple area to a smaller exit. You should find yourself next to a small little park called Maruyama Koen This is a good stop for a quick lunch if you are a cheapskate like me and you purchased your lunch at the Lawsons convenience store accross the road and opposite Yasaka Jinjya. (There is a pretty good street view on Google Earth of this area)

You walk forward to an open area in front of Maruyama Pond that includes another little resting place and an icecream stand with koi ponds and a little bridge. Don't go over the bridge. You just hang a right past the icecream shop and follow your nose forward. Every now and then, you may pass a young Maiko (apprentice Geisha) or a real Geisha if you are lucky. If they are out in full regalia, they are usually happy to pose for a brilliant face-book-postable snap. You walk on past the Buddha dedicated to the dead from WWII  (Ryozen Kannon Temple), then some rickshaws then hang a left and then a snappy right. If in doubt just follow all the other people walking in the same direction or ask - Kiyomizudera wa? Someone is bound to help out and just point. You will know you are getting close to the main shopping road that leads to Kiyomizudera when you start walking up at quite an angle. Wonderful little stores will appear that sell everything from yakimono  (Japanese hand made earthenware and pottery) , elegant, colourful sensu (hand held folding fans) or maybe some Japanese delicacies such as tsukemono (pickles). This will come to an end and you will be thrust into another street full of interesting shops and people everywhere. You turn left and again walk up but at a much gentler slope. This leads to the entrance and you just keep going up. Along the way there are even more little stores, cafes and eateries. Try some machya icecream (green tea ice cream), you'll love it. If you are with a group of high-school boys, you can even get a replica katana (samurai sword) but you'd better make sure it is boxed and labelled as a souvenir or you may have trouble with customs when you arrive home. When the stores finish, the entrance stairs await. This is the best spot for a group photo if you need one. If you loiter for too long, someone may ask you to take a snap of them or sometimes with them.

So you walk up the steps and follow your nose, pay the fee then 'do the dera'. Make sure you visit the stalls that sell Omamori (charms, talismans) and it is perfectly ok for you to sip from each of the three cups of water at the otawa-no-taki, the waterfall where visitors drink for health, longevity and success in studies. So that's how you do the Dera really. It's best to take your time walking up to view the stores before buying. The route you take to see Kiyomizudera, will take you back down the same road and it is easier to buy on the way down than the way up.

When I take highschool kids on these tours, I always make sure I take the same route back as the one I used to get there because I love that walk so much but you may just chose to catch a taxi at the bottom of the street leading away from Kiyomizudera. At the very end of the street, if you turn right, it is a fairly quick walk back to Yasaka Jinjya so it is not a problem if a group splits into the agile who take the long way back and less agile who just take it easy, take the quick way and get a few snacks at the Lawsons before meeting the die-hards in front of Yaska Jinja on their return.

So that's the first Kyoto post in all it's glory. If this post proves to be in any way a all popular, I'll follow this up with advice on a trip the the Kyoto Handicraft Centre then a quaint little tram ride to Eiga Mura, home of the Kurosawa movies. I might even get to Shin-Osaka station, The Midosuji Subway, Umeda, Nanba, Tennoji, Mino Mountain and a host of other great places to see in the Kansai area. Shizuoka Ken could be featured as well as Hyogo prefecture, Hiroshima, Miyajimi, Himeji and Tokyo - who knows?

BTW: I've added a new widget link (up and to the right of this page)  to a new post on Soundcloud. It was a Christmas song - Jingle Bells - and was done in a sort of hip hop style for a jazz ballet group. Worked well for the group and I have made it downloadable if anyone wants to use it.

That's all for now

Ja Mata Ne


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Review the Reviewer Part V

Hi Folks

Yes, I'm a little surprised as well - another post... so soon! Maybe it's the Christmas spirit; maybe I'm just relaxed or maybe I have something burning in my heart waiting to be expunged and expressed in my particularly qwerty (Yes - not quirky) style? Who knows?

I've been spending a little time recently trawling through my smashwords and kindle accounts and have noticed a few quirky ( yes quirky this time, not qwerty) aspects to the reviewing process.

I have a short story posted at Smashwords that links to Barnes and Noble. Keitai Friends was my first published work that has become a chapter of my novel, Memoirs of a Vending Machine.
Reviews have been juvenile to say the least. It seems as though a couple of kids have had a read and decided that they hate my guts and that I deserve to be punished. So... scathing reviews have ensued.

Here's the first:

 Stay Away!

This is by far the worst book (if you can call it that) that I have ever read. It was twenty for [sic] pages (if that). If that wasn't enough the main character whom you think might be interesting we see only his inner monologue for the most part and I have to wonder if the author had something against the Japanese.
Ok, so you don't like my book. Fine, you have every right to express this and you assume that I hate Japanese people - maybe just a little bit unworldly  of you - you seem a little naive and inexperienced but 10 points for supporting Japanese people and defending them but I just don't think you get it. (For the record - I do not hate the Japanese.)

 DO NOT GET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DO NOT GET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I GOT BORED ON THE FIRST PAGE, PAINSTAKINGLY READ TO THE SIXTH PAGE THEN QUICKLY AND PROMPTLY ARCHIVED THIS BOOK
Ok, so this reviewer doesn't like reading words - fine but I could hardly call this constructive and respectful of the hard work the author put in to publishing the work.


I have not even read the book and i see all these bad commets [sic] sooo its a great thind [sic]it is free
Ok, so this reviewer didn't actually read the book but read the reviews - at least there were no complaints about having to read words - shame about the typo.


Did you know that japs think that korea is their land? Also, they se----abused asian women
 Well... me too ...WTF.
Posted September 29, 2011

No text was provided for this review

And finally a FIVE STAR rating posted anonymously with no text. If you go to the page you will 
find that this is the end of a tit-for-tat style race to post the least and then the most stars in order to 
annoy the previous reviewer.

I don't actually know what to make of this but I suspect that the story has been published under the 
wrong genre and that the readers are expecting a graphic novel. There are illustrations in this version 
but it isn't intended to be a graphic novel. Maybe these readers are young and are expressing their 
disappointment at not getting what they expected (for free I might add). The absolute irony of all of 
this is that out of all of the linked ebook sites, this one yields the most downloads and the most popular
 with just under 1000 downloads this year was Keitai Friends. The downloads just keep coming!

I don't know, I just write 'm.

BTW: If you have an interesting account of a ridiculous review that you would like to review, drop 
me a line - I'll post it.

Merry Christmas all


Friday, 7 December 2012


A little bit Goku a little bit Luffy ?

Hi Folks

Great to back. I'm feelin' a bit relaxed these days so I thought it was time to re-connect and let you all know what's going on in Beerubaraoyaji world. I needed a Pirate Graphic for this post but decided to use an almost-pirate post done by a friend of mine. I needed a pirate graphic to go with my latest upload to 'Soundcloud'. I've called it Pirates as it was inspired by a visit to the One Piece exhibition in Tokyo earlier this year. One Piece is a long running anime series about a group of pirates. Pirates is an instrumental and you can have a listen if you want by clicking the 'Soundcloud' link on the right or the hyperlink that appears earlier in the text.

There are a few other uploads just in time for christmas including; Wish you a Merry Christmas,  Jingle Bells and Silent Night. The first two can be downloaded for free. 

While I'm at it, there is a free download of 'Head Shoulders knees and Toes' I did a while a go for an ESL class back in Japan. Finally, there is a karaoke style version of 'Waltzing Matilda' also available for to download for you to do as you wish. I used it at a local civic centre at a library in Japan to do my bit for a culture festival one year. Yes, I sang it loud and proud to a fairly reasonable reception. I remember I also played the guitar to it but didn't get any compliments on that front. If you do download and use it I'd be keen to hear what you did with it and how it went as I go about creating a sideline hobby in karaoke and jingles to compliment my writing ambitions. 

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes is the most popular one and has been downloaded all over the world.  It's a close second to Wish You a Merry Christmas then Waltzing Matilda although Jingle Bells is hanging in there.

I am on holidays now so I intend to really get down and make some substantial progress on the next novel - the band novel. I know it's taking time but if there is one thing I have learned about publishing, it is that nothing but the best of the best should be uploaded... so I am taking my time. Things have progressed but I'm not going to bend to pressure and publish prematurely.

I really really really do promise to get down and do the Beerubaraoyaji does Kyoto post in the very very near future. If I don't see you before hand, Merry Christmas and I'll see you in the new year.


Friday, 5 October 2012

News for Beerubaraoyaji

Hi Folks

I've been away for a while and totally 'off my blog' - needed to recharge after a hard few months of work.

Since my last post, I've had a flood of downloads and a few great comments. Thanks for the positive feedback folks, it really makes a world of difference. I have since found a few posts on the subject of bad reviews and have come to terms with the darker side of e-publishing and publishing in general. In related news, there has also been a lot going on in the media about trolling and cyber-bullying and it would appear that all is not well with this side of social media and the internet. It just seems that it is something that you have to learn to live with. As far as e-books are concerned, the problem pre-dates the internet by hundreds of years so I am definitely not alone here so I'm feeling much better about the whole thing really.

In other news, I've been working on the band novel again and have been having fun with the characters. Still a way to go on this one yet, but things are moving forward.

I have had a few downloads on Kindle in Europe, most particularly Germany and am looking forward to increasing my presence in this and other countries over time. Italy, Spain and France are also having a look - still slow traffic but steady. It feels good to reach a different audience. I love the idea that my work is relevant in non-English speaking countries. I think one of the main attractions is that the novel offers some insight into Japanese language and culture without sugar coating things - as well as good practice in English. Lucky I went to the effort to commission the professional edits really.

On another front, I have been dabbling in music composition lately and have uploaded a ton of stuff on Soundcloud. Two of the tracks, 'A Mouse is on the Table' and 'Keitai Friends' have clocked up enough hits for soundcloud to offer me a free conversion to the new more social-network-friendly version if I can top 1000 downloads in the next 5 weeks. The same goes for whoever is following me at the time. I have re-posted the tracks on my blog in case any of my readers are soundcloud users and would like a listen - and to get a chance to upgrgrade to the new platform. You could always follow me if you were really keen.

Lastly, I have been able to generate enough energy to think about honouring a recent commitment to do a special visit-Kyoto post that a reader sort of requested a few posts ago. I'll get to work on this soon so look out for it.

Thats all for now.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Review the Reviewer part IV

Author bites back at 'Bookworm'.
Hi Folks

I'm back, Mojo surging through my veins - ego in-tact - reconciled to a new phase of development in my quest to become a writer.

As you would know, I have posted Memoirs of a Vending Machine on smashwords and also on Kindle in a new form - part I and part II. Part II is what was 'Kujira'. I had always intended that the two would become a novel at some stage and my recent experience with a Kindle reviewer - little miss 'bookworm' - provided the catalyst for the change. Well... turns out... I finished up in the top 100 Action and Adventure overnight despite the one star ping to the ego supplied by aforementioned bookworm.

So... I suppose I should just let the people decide... and they have.

The whole experience though poses a number of questions in my mind. The bookworm is officially sponsored as a top 1000 reviewer by kindle. The one star rating directly following a five star rating seems to be a little less objective than I would imagine an endorsed reviewer should be. It seems to be an unnecessary personal attack. Could it be that she is an endorsed cyber-bully?

Let me get this straight - I am NOT accusing her of being a bully - although, given a perceived position of inequality here and the actions that she has taken, it certainly feels like bullying. Moreover, it looks like bullying and it sure as hell sounds like bullying. I'm just putting it out there - the grubby facts that is.

So look, I am not going to just quit.  I know that there are people out there who like what I have spent a lot of time and effort writing, hence the five and four star reviews. There are those who are not particularly interested, hence the three star reviews. Fine - not your cup of tea then.

There are some one and two stars from the first published days before the professional edit but notably non since the edit until... 'the bookworm'.

So bookworm I am back and looking forward to more downloads and more publications. You didn't succeed in your apparent quest to knock me out. I am back and ready to roll with readers ready and willing to read my work.

Ja mata ne


Saturday, 14 July 2012


Hi Folks

Well I return to my blog battered and bruised but definitely alive and well. My Kindle experience behind me I have done what I have been meaning to do for a while now and combined Memoirs with Kujira. I had intended to do this anyway but posted them separately as I finished them. Maybe I should have waited until they were ready to be published as one but what is done is done.

The novel 'Memoirs of a Vending Machine' now has a length of approximately 43 000 words and will make readers happy. Many comments centred around the fact that in Memoirs, although the story was enjoyable, it needed to continue as readers were keen to see what happened to Mike, Mark and Jon.

Well now you can find out - for FREE. It's all there.

In other news, I have been going crazy with my new logic pro 9 software and have been composing my way into insanity. See new link on my blog for a snippet of a new creation, "Walkin." It's something I though might lend itself well to the game market. I have a few more posts that are almost ready including a new ballad that is still a work in progress. Watch this space.

I'll be concentrating on music for the time being until I get my Mojo back and start writing again.

By the way - passed the exams.

That's all for now.


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Review the Reviewer 3

The Thrill Has Gone
Hi Folks

I've had a bad week on Kindle. A couple of recent posts regarding 'Memoirs of a Vending Machine' had lifted my spirits recently. But the last one... I had asked readers to hold off a little on negative reviews as there were more than enough posted to go around. So... little miss stick-the-knife-in-a-little-further-and-twist-it decides to ping me with a one star rating and a super negative review intended to really kick me in the teeth rather than critique what she had read. This follows an email I sent to Kindle regarding the electronic merry-go-round of quotes from reviews that give snippets of what reviewers have to say. None of the positive reviews was represented so I asked Kindle about this. The email reply explained that the negative reviews were randomly selected electronically and none of them broke the terms of the agreements that Kindle had in place. Great, so you actively discourage readers from buying a cheap read denying your company a cut of the fee, cutting the author out completely. 

Don't get me wrong, I have taken the criticisms on board and have edited, re-written and commissioned a copy edit to address the concerns. The problem is that the initial negative reviews are unable to represent changes and stay there, discouraging readers. It's a self destruct cycle so matter what you do, the reviewers feel that they have a license to 'bag you out' and see an opportunity to hone their  savage instincts by practicing their negative review techniques on an unsuspecting author no matter what is done to right the wrongs an inexperienced writer may make. 

My advice - stick with smashwords it's a much more enlightened and encouraging forum.

I can't say my experience with Kindle has been a positive one and I have had enough - the thrill has gone and I no longer am enjoying participating on their forum. I have unpublished and will soon un-publish the others. Memoirs is now available for free on smashwords and there I will leave things for a while until a time comes when I feel creative and positive again. Having had the guts kicked out of my ego completely, this may take a while. I am still working on another book - the band story - and will post this when I finish it.

By for now


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Punk Rocker Parody

Punk Rocker Parody Procrastination

Hi Folks

It's been a while now but I have been busy. Firstly I would like to report that I have sold very few copies of my first novella, 'Memoirs of a Vending Machine' and I can now confirm that I am a failed author according to the definition I carry in my own imagination. But at least I tried! So to all of my detractors I am now no longer prepared to put up with your criticisms and so I say &^*^&%$*$#.  And to those who have enjoyed or are yet to enjoy my creations - Thank you and god bless.

Anyway, in the mean-time I have been preparing for law exams and therefore have been busy procrastinating. I have managed to bring to fruition an idea I have had for some time - a parody of the famous song 'I wish I was a punk rocker' by Sandi Thom. I have checked the copyright law and I think I can get away with this as a parody or as 'fair use' due to its educational value.If you want to understand what I'm talking about here you'll have to listen.  If the copyright owners contact me however and claim infringement I'll have to take it down but until then, have a listen its a bit of fun.

The link is to the right, at the top of my other links to 'soundcloud'. (sorry - took the link down 'cause I needed the space.)

That's all for now - and wish me luck with the exam please.


Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Don't quit your day job - just yet.

Roppongi Hills Tokyo - Taken on a Gallaxy II

Well, this is where I would rather be - celebrating the milestone achieved this week on Kindle with a quiet drink and a chance to reflect and re-energise This  shot was taken on a recent trip to Tokyo on my trusty Gallaxy II, where I was lucky enough to visit the 'One Piece" exhibition - a creation by Eiichiro Oda There is this really cool bar near the cafeteria and I couldn't help myself as the atmosphere beckoned.  One long memorable drink, I'll tell you.

Although not a huge fan of "One Piece' due to an unfortunate misalignment of my age and the publication date of aforementioned Manga it was nevertheless absolutely amazing to see the artwork and follow the stories as presented. A chat with a few young fans revealed convoluted plots and characterisation that are of a complexity equal to anything I have read to date. Recently, I have been inspired by a few Japanese Manga creations such as "20th  Century Boys" ( the movie version features the song "20th Century Boy by T.REX ) and "Death Note",. I can recommend these to anyone who reads this blog - and of course my books!

Anyway, after two years and many many free downloads, I have finally managed to have "Memoirs of a Vending Machine" advertised for a price. Yes, for the grand old price of $0.99 you can have your very own copy of what at least 13,000 others have managed to download for free over the years.

It kind of makes me feel a little more legitimate after all my struggles with some vicious, ego destroying and unnecessarily negative reviewers. But I can't quite give up my day job. As is usually the case, readers are far less willing to download an ebook with a price on its head than a freebee. So no more ego boosting reaffirmation from my 100+ downloads-a-month free ebook. No way... its back to reality and a more realistic flat line while I wait for an enthusiastic reader to be inspired by my precis and my cover's artwork. Somehow I have the feeling that this may mean a little downtime but hey... so what... maybe I can now stop checking out the sales and spend some time on the next book.

BTW: If anyone wants to post a review of a reviewer, feel free to send it in. I guarantee that I will post it.

Ja Mata Kondo


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Review the Reviewer part 2

Can't believe what they are serving at Tokyo Disneyland these days !
(Hint - read the description a couple of times to see what it is they are actually steaming)

Hi Folks

I have included the above photo as it is kind of connected to the present theme of reviewing the reviewer. This review/description didn't put me off however and I ate my steamed bum, enjoying every tasty mouthful - I'd buy another.

Well this has got to be the fastest turnaround time for me to post on my blog ever. Last post I invited readers to send in any reviews they thought worthy of some healthy ridicule and low and behold, paulaustin a fellow blogger sends in the following little gem. Although I couldn't quite verify it by locating the review on the stated web site, I presume it is out there on another site that reviews holiday destinations or something like that. Anyway, doesn't really matter 'cause it's hilarious and I love it. 

The place it reviews looks lovely and I wonder how they would feel if they knew this review monster is at large hacking to pieces all that work they have done in presenting the pristine picture perfect image on the web site. I'm sure that Yosemite Cabin Rentals could do without this sort of random assortment of unrelated sentences. Mind you, it did make me click on the link and investigate a little further.

It reads;

"If you getting really starving on a night journey where you want to get the food done quickly so you get to hit the sack. I'd suggest purchasing a Vegetarian food."
yosemite cabin rentals
You know, the cabins aren't bad either  - with or without vegetarian food.

Thanks  for the post paulaustin. I am starting to think that reviewing the reviewer could be a great cathartic experience for anyone that has ever been trolled by an ebook site serial ego crusher and I think I may have found a way to pay them back.

Keep sending them in folks if you get where I am headed here.



Monday, 23 April 2012

Review the Reviewer

Umeda Hankyu Station

Hi Folks

Well I'm back from Japan and had a great time. It was perfect timing as I arrived on the second day of the one week that the Cherry Blossoms come out to play. As this is not a travel blog I won't post any Sakura shots so I will move on. While I was there, I made a point of taking a few shots that inspired particular passages in my ebooks. The one chosen for this post is from Keitai Friends, a chapter of Kujira. This is where Josh gets arrested. Notice the screen in the background where the foreign guy seems to be passing judgement over something. 

Anyway, on to the topic that is at the forefront of my rage - a review of my short story 'Bug'. It is available for free on Kindle at the moment and a reviewer rated as a top 1000 reviewer has annoyed the heck out out me. He writes;

"Bug is a less than five minute long read that starts of [sic] okay"

So he didn't like the story - fine. I've had five and four star reviews from others on Kindle including the UK so a bad one is just par for the course. But hang on... he's complaining that a short story is not a long enough read. Well sorry pal but that's how it goes with a short story - THEY ARE SHORT. Kindle ought to make sure that anyone reviewing a short story is at least a little familiar with the basic conventions of a short story. A better command of basic spelling conventions should also be a prerequisite as well. To tell you the truth, I am getting a little bit annoyed with some of these unhelpful reviews. It just puts off readers unnecessarily and wastes my time. COME ON KINDLE, you can do better here.

On a positive note, I have finally sold a copy of Memoirs of a Vending Machine on the UK site. Reason to celebrate if you ask me.

Wow that feels better. I may make Review the Reviewer a regular feature. Anyone out there that would like to share an experience, drop me a line and I will post your complaint.



Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The band novel and other bits of this and that.

Th Band Novel Progresses....
Hi Folks

How have you all been? Nice to be relaxed at the moment. I'll be heading off to Japan shortly for some R&R and some more inspiration. "Memoirs of a Vending Machine" just keeps on going with Kindle, being downloaded daily and attracting some favourable reviews recently. Seems the copy edit has paid off and won me over thousands of new readers. I'm also happy with 'Bug'. I've had it sitting there on Kindle for $0.99 for quite some time, attracting some great reviews from the UK but little in the way of sales. Not surprising really as it is a 3000 word short story. Well... Kindle did some price matching and made it free and the downloads have surged exponentially. Still waiting on some reviews from the US but I'm sure that someone will chime in quite soon. 

Speaking of reviews, I am becoming a little cynical about the reviewers on Barnes and Noble. One reviewer rated 'Memoirs Low' and commented that the author had confused two of the characters. This is the first time I've had this one levelled at me and it made me wonder - did the reviewer misread? Did this reviewer just get it wrong and blame the author for a lack of basic comprehension skills? I couldn't be bothered at this stage trawling through the text and double check this but 'me thinks' this reviewer could do with a review and a comprehension test.

In other news, you may have noticed that I have posted some links to 'soundcloud' and to CDbaby on my blog. The 'Keitai Freinds' post hasn't resulted in any more hits than if I hadn't posted but the melody itself has had hundreds of hits. The Kids song. ' A Mouse On The Table' has had more and so I uploaded it to CDbaby where the mp3 can be purchased. Hundreds of downloads from the soundcloud link but no sales. Oh well, better get around to writing the kids story that I have in mind and the education materials that go with it. 

So... to the new novel. I've been experimenting of late and wanted to write about the experience that a musician goes through on stage when a performance explodes and an audience is won over. I tried to write it from the perspective of the muso, going through the technicalities of actually playing the part on stage. The result is the following excerpt from my up and coming yet-to-be officially named novel about the band. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

Adding to the apprehension, there were a few moments of silence as the band members settled into position and then, with a consensual cascade of affirmative nods from each of the band members Scott, the drummer began the four clicks of the drumsticks, signalling the point of no return. Game on… the gig had begun.

The four clicks heralded the band's first statement. The combination of guitar, drums and horns created great body and  depth as they all came in together in perfect unison. The sound shot out of the front-of-house speakers, melding sight with sound as the surging power of the first chord shattered the stale atmosphere of the room.

The audience were listening.

After eight bars of intro, the horns dropped out and Adam came in with the vocals. This was the final test. If the vocals were good, the audience could be convinced.
“I’m not sitting on the fence,” sang Adam. It was good. Although Adam was short, he had a powerful voice. It was masculine and confident with a good quality and an excellent range. Adam had it down – a good microphone technique, good breathing and a good sense of phrasing. The audience looked pleased and so did the band.

The sense of enjoyment fed the egos of the band members. It was synergy – the two main components in the equation, the audience and the band were combining to become bigger than the sum of the parts.

“No, no. no not my world,” the front line of Ken, Adam and Jack chanted in harmony as Jim launched into a raging high pitched solo that lifted the dynamic, testing new ground for this original. This was one of Jim’s better solos, encouraged by the approving expressions of the other band members and the desire to prove himself to the world at large. The fever fed back to the others until the dynamics of the band could go no higher – then it lifted again.

End of solo - Adam was back in again. The song was on the homestretch and the horns were readying themselves for what would be the ending to end all endings. The anticipation showed in the faces of the crowd as the horns were lifted to the mouths of Jack and Jim. They had the honour of finishing this one – the final round of attention. The expectation was palpable.

A stoke of the snare drum disturbed the equilibrium, switching the mood to high as the rhythm became more complex. The horns began the repetitive phrase that would lead the song out. Louder and more frantic it became. - again but louder then again but higher. And then again and again until finally with a high-pitched trumpet note punctuating a final chord from the entire band including what seemed like all of the drum kit, the song ended.

The crowd were stunned.  The sudden empty void of space that seemed to silently echo in their minds filled slowly with reality as their senses began to descend and normalise. This lasted for what seemed like minutes but in all probability lasted less than a second and the crowd spontaneously whistled, cheered and clapped while stamping their feet in a primitive ritualistic dance of approval. The mood was electric and people would have paid just to enter the room and feel the atmosphere.

I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I did writing it. I'll be working on this one over the next couple of weeks and will post some more excerpts as I go.



Friday, 23 March 2012

'Keitai Friends' theme and 'A mouse is on the table' kids song

No picture for this one. Just look to the right and you will find two new widgets to click. The first one is what was intended as a theme for a video for Keitai Friends now available again on smashwords for free.  It's the sort-of-graphic-novel version so please enjoy the artwork from a couple of high school kids in Japan. I acknowledged them in an earlier post. The video is yet to be made and uploaded to you tube so in the meantime feel free to have a listen. Just click and play. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.

The second widget is a link to a kids song about a mouse on a table. I wrote and recorded with my daughter. She is the star and so she should be. The idea come about when a group of Japanese kids I was teaching in Osaka, Japan, couldn't remember the prepositions of place, on, in by, and under. Listen to the song and you'll get it. If you enjoy it let me know with a positive post or a like and I'll see about allowing downloads. 

That's all for now


Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tips for newbie ebook publishers.

 James Pollard - Guest Blog  

Hi Folks

It's been a while since I posted anything and for a good reason. After some summer school law studies, I've been back to work and have felt as creative as a bucket of sand as I launch myself into the new year. I haven't been as productive as I had hoped and probably won't be until I have a little time off  in a few weeks. I'll be in Japan soon for a quick visit and I'm sure that this will revitalise my creative drive. If things work out, I'll be sitting on a tatami mat floor snuggled up under a warm kotatsu with my laptop and a can of Sapporo black label beer busily working toward finishing the next project - the band story.

In the mean time, I posted as a guest blogger this week and have decided to post it on my own blog with a link. Please enjoy my first blog on tips for the newbie ebook publisher.    



James Pollard on Self Publishing 

Not that long ago I heard somewhere that everyone had at least one book in them. This is all well and good but if you are going to get that book out of you, what should you write about? Well, standard advice was to write about what you know. Having spent a bit of time in Japan, it was a place I knew quite well so that issue pretty much decided itself.  I didn't want to try anything like a travel guide or a sociolinguistic analysis of contemporary language and culture, as I like to have a bit of fun with what I write. So I used my experience to create some fiction loosely based on people and places I knew and came up with two novellas with a third in the pipeline ready to finish the trilogy.

Although, I am tempted to tell you the whole story about finding friends to edit my work, my journey with coming to grips with the conventions, mental challenges and other disappointing indie-publishing moments, I have promised Kat that this piece will be limited to advice for newbies on publishing an eBook.  I’ll leave the rest to another blog spot on another day.

I suppose the first question to ask is why publish as an eBook? Well, firstly, it sounds really cool.  It is very contemporary and suits the times. It is also a lot cheaper than publishing the traditional way and is instantaneous, meaning that as soon as it is uploaded, it is live and available to people all over the world. You don’t pay them to publish your book and you can set your own price.

Having made the decision to publish, the question then becomes, whom do you publish with? Well the main players in my opinion are Kindle ( ) and Smashwords  ( ) and you can publish on both at the same time. Smashwords has affiliate arrangements with Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Sony etc. so you are guaranteed distribution. Kindle has a gigantic distribution network of its own. The beauty of Smashwords is that you get your fifteen minutes of fame after you upload as the works appear in the order that they are loaded. They just scroll down as the next book is uploaded.  The book then sits there as Smashwords puts it in places on the web that make it more discoverable. It is a good idea to really think about what genre your book sits in and the tags you are going to use as this can help readers find you – the key to eBook publishing these days being discoverability.

Kindle is different as the eBook is loaded directly to a category or genre. I don’t entirely understand the process but you find yourself added somewhere in the middle ranking and quickly rise or fall in rank as your eBook is downloaded or ignored. Again tags and wise choices with regards to genre can aid in your potential discoverability. Kindle is much larger than Smashwords so you could soon discover that you are being downloaded by a factor of 100 in comparison to Smashwords. Of course this may not be the case, it depends on your eBook.

Kindle has a range of forums that allow you to reach a range of readers and other authors and Smashwords relies on a Facebook page.  A new Kindle feature is the KDP select fund. KDP requires that you publish exclusively with Kindle in exchange for inclusion in a premium user lender library. Every time you are borrowed, your percentage share in a fixed fund goes up. In February, Kindle allocated $500 000 to this fund. The December 2011 fund yielded $1.70 that you may have earned in addition to any other sales on Kindle. One downside however is that you forfeit any sales from any other publishers by joining the fund.

If you are going to take the plunge and publish it goes without saying that you must first write a book. Obviously, the better the writing the more popular it will be so you really need to spend the time on this before you even consider publishing.  I can’t stress enough the need to have your work checked, then double-checked then professionally edited. It will save you a lot of hassles, particularly with Kindle. Smashwords readers are much kinder but you should be uploading only your best work, something I wish I had done when I started out. I found my copy editor at the Society of Editors (WA) Inc.

Notwithstanding your best efforts, Kindle reviewers can be harsh on the newbie so toughen up Princess; you may be reviewed harshly… or not, depending on your eBook. There are a lot of publishers on kindle so get ready for a range of tricks that may or not include strange 5 star ratings for eBooks that don’t necessarily deserve it and 1 star disappointments with savaging reviews that cannot really be justified.

Publishing is easy if you use a standard word document and you follow the style guide that Smashwords provides at   You don’t have to worry about special file formats as Smashwords and Kindle do all the converting for you. All you need to do is to follow the prompts. You have to prepare a cover and organise some artwork for your creation. This gets uploaded as a jpeg or a PDF. I would advise spending some time on this and there are links on the Kindle web page and plenty of offers on the Smashwords Facebook page if you want to pay for this. The final thing is to make sure you have organised a prĂ©cis that appears with your book’s cover image. You have to type it in when you upload and there is nothing worse than having to compose this during the technical stage so best have in prepared. Make it a good one, as this is what readers will base their decision on whether to download or to keep browsing. The next step is promotion but I’ll leave that for another day.

Anyway, that should be enough as an introduction. It is a lot of fun to see your work appear on your very own e-reader and I recommend the experience. If you are interested in the two novellas I have on Smashwords they can be found at the following addresses.

 ‘Memoirs of a Vending Machine’ is free at

‘Kujira’ is available for $0.99 at

BUT… If you use the following coupon ( TC43Z ) when you check out, you can download if for free until the end of March. I also have a blog where I discuss issues relating to my publishing journey at the following link:

Happy publishing.

James Pollard


Friday, 27 January 2012

So what about a film script?

Back from Fox Studios Sydney

Hi Folks

Wow, what a week it's been. It's a long story but to cut to the chase, I've been to Sydney and ended up at Fox Studios watching some post-production on an up and coming Australian film. I can't really talk about the film or how I got the invite but I can say that I am inspired to write and keep writing having seen the end product of what is, after all, the dream of most writers –– to see your work in film with famous actors cast as the characters that came from your imagination. 

Don't jump to conclusions here as I haven't been offered any lucrative deals for any of my work but yes, I do know someone. I saw some of the editing and watched the sound being put together on some very impressive equipment operated and creatively overseen by some amazing people. I was able to draw parallels between the creative decisions made with regards to image and sound and the creative process in writing where you have to use the fixed codes and conventions of the language to convey the emotions and the meaning that go beyond the technicalities of the medium. 

It was great to see the director making the same sorts of decisions I make when I write. Again, don't get me wrong, the guy I was talking to writes and directs and has professional notoriety, respect and has made a shed load of cash doing it. Me... well it was great to get a bit of advice. Nevertheless, I have come out of the experience inspired and am thinking of taking a different approach and putting my next project together as a script. I  have heard that this can sometimes suit work that isn't quite suited to the novel format. Maybe I am just dreaming here but that is what this blog and my project are all about. If I do this I will still make sure that I can load it up as a novel on smashwords so look out for the yet-to-be-named book about a band. 

Speaking of this, I haven't been doing a lot of work lately as I have been galavanting all over Australia and trying to get some study in at the same time. I have just finished learning what I need to know about alternative dispute resolution and tried to get some reading done on the flight home. My return flight from Sydney had been cancelled the day before and I had been put up in a hotel but just missed out on an upgrade to business. This was all good until while the passengers were boarding, a guy sat next to me and started reading. I had already settled my elbows into the comfortable economy seat reading position when he made a grumbling sound and physically pushed my elbow off the armrest and asked me if it was going to be like this during the flight. Well... for all my study in conflict resolution, rather than separate the person from the problem, look to the interests and try and expand the pie with mutual and neutral options, I just told him to &^%$#@# off loudly and aggressively. It worked like magic, not another word or a move back to the armrest. 

Not sure what the moral of the story is here but I think it has something to do with needing to take a position sometimes and playing hard.

Anyway, the novellas are doing well with uploads for 'Memoirs of a Vending Machine' doubling over the last couple of months. This has resulted in a few more sales for 'Kujira'. I did one last edit of 'Memoirs' and re-organised the various chapters with some new titles and just a little re-writing. I am now satisfied that 'Memoirs' is all done and I can move on.  

I haven't yet done my guest blog and will post that when it is done.

Anyway, that's all for now so... ogenki de ne.