|IT’S HERE!June 9th, 2011
So what does “Stories for Japan” mean?
It means that you can go right now to this page on Amazon.com, and for $3.99 you can buy a collection of wonderful Japan-themed stories, knowing that your money is going to help people in the north of Japan who need it very badly.
It means that every nickel raised from this book will go to organizations working to rebuild shattered communities and shattered lives in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
It means that twenty writers sat down and turned out twenty amazing stories to help men, women, and children in northern Japan.
It means that writers can now do, thanks to the immediacy of e-books, the same thing musicians and actors can do — pool their talents in a good cause.
It means that I’ve just finished working on the most magical project of my life, and I have to thank twenty first-rate writers, two translators of Japanese haiku, a favorite writer who surprised us all with this brilliant cover design, an e-book producer who worked her ass off for free, and the people at Japan America Society, who adopted the project so the money could all go to the right place — to their 2011 Japan Relief Fund.
And I thank you, too, in advance, for buying it.
I had been pretty much immobile in front of my television for days, stunned by both the magnitude of the disaster and the tiny details that made it tragic on the scale of a single human life. As it became inescapable that tens of thousands were lost and that the survivors were coping with a courage and dignity the rest of the world can only envy, I said to myself that it was a shame we couldn’t hold a writer’s benefit to assist in the recovery.
And then I realized that we could — that e-books make it possible.
Within 24 hours, I had sent e-mails to about 30 of my favorite mystery and thriller writers, asking for a free story, and one day later I had 23 affirmative responses. Over the next few weeks, four writers had to drop out, so I was left with 19 and me, for a total of twenty stories.
Those generous writers 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.
If I were in charge of the afterlife, they’d all be admitted directly into heaven, without having to pass through TSA. As their stories came in, it was immediately apparent that this book was going to work. (You should look for their books, too — there’s not a dud in the carload.)
Not all the stories are mysteries or thrillers. Some are memory pieces, stories of love thwarted, friendships damaged, racial prejudice exercised, parents rediscovered, revenge exacted — a pretty wide spectrum of life experiences. Some are crackerjack mysteries or thrillers. I couldn’t pick the best if my life depended on it.
Irish writer Adrian McKinty’s story wasn’t even fiction. As a young man in Belfast, he’d bought a bunch of books in a bomb sale, which is just what it sounds like, and one of them was a charred paperback of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Years later, McKinty followed the great 17th-century poet’s footsteps up through Sendai, pretty much destroyed on March 11. His remembrance of all that, “Matsushima Bay,” led to the inclusion of haiku by Basho and Issa as linking pieces between the story. Jane Reichhold, probably today’s pre-eminent translator of Basho, and David Lanoue, who has made beautiful translations of Issa, gave us permission to use their work free.
Gar Anthony Haywood, a writer I admire extravagantly, came up with the cover design and blew us all away. (This project took shape through frequent group e-mails — it was collaborative in every sense of the word — and the reaction to Gar’s cover was a high point of the process.)
Kimberly Hitchens of booknook.biz, who produces my e-books, stepped up to this and got it done with maximum beauty in minimum time. She even caught the fact that I’d left out the copyright page, and filled it in for me.
And the whole thing, one piece at a time, was proofed by our own Everett Kaser, for whom no detail is too small. Thanks to you, too, Everett.
The way it works is almost magical in its simplicity. You buy the book, and the 70% of the purchase price that would normally go to writer royalties are instead deposited monthly by wire transfer directly into the account of the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.
I feel like I’ve spent the past six weeks in the middle of a stream of generosity. I know how Scrooge felt when he woke up on Christmas morning.
I love this book.