Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Shimanchu-American and an award-winning poet, author, and publisher with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), a two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner and HWA Mentor of the Year for 2020, she offers free classes for writers on her website.
On June 23 I vanished from socials with the message that I was taking six weeks off to write a novel. I planned to be back on August 4. Then all hell broke loose. Severe COVID, human and canine deaths, my husband was randomly attacked, a spider bite… that sums up July. It was a grueling month of nightmares. Somehow I managed to finish the novel by my deadline. It became my tether to sanity. Other than editing, it was over. I thought.
Then, thanks to a friend, I was invited to apply to participate in a special program… if I could have a screenplay written by September 1. New project! I did a cursory look at screenplay formatting, signed up for a free trial of Final Draft and dug in. That screenplay is now finished and sent in.
With that, I’m officially back. I have some catch up: the next issue of Space & Time (spaceandtime.net) is underway, I need to get the HWA Poetry blog scheduled, the Showcase needs to be wrapped up, reviews and blurbs I’ve promised… all before we leave for Brazil next week. It will happen.
The past few months changed me. After I came out of the week long COVID fever I was convinced I had been “rewired” and that feeling hasn’t left. I’ve written since grade school but I’ve never had focus. It’s been a compulsion, a need rather than a choice. No plans.
About five years ago some things changed that and I started focussing in with more purpose, but I’ve been doing a lot of groping. Tortured Willows further narrowed that purpose but it was sloppy. The last two months have stripped everything away and I feel all I have left is purpose.
I’m not even ready to share all that has happened yet—still processing. To sum it up, I tried to step back for a minute and fell off a cliff. At the bottom of the ravine I found what I was looking for. I’m back to work with a mission.
Plans after Brazil? I’ll be finishing the I Ching studies I started at the beginning of this year. I’ll be starting a second novel, most likely a follow up to Inujini titled Kintsugi. I’ll be keeping promises, but taking a pause on making new ones. It’s been an eventful year and I need to catch my breath. And look for my hat… it vanished while I was sick and I’ve never seen it again.
In the meantime, I’ll be posting trip details+ on my socials and catch up here when I can.
Just a fast and exhausted post to say I just wrote the ending to INUJINI, my first novel. I started back on June 23rd with the crazy idea that I could write a WWII inspired novel in six weeks and I did, but I feel like I’ve been through a war myself.
With all the things that happened, this has been one of the darkest months of my life. All the loss and pain became linked in my mind with this novel.
I was writing about a small island overtaken by war, and in the process I became a small island overtaken by war. The book both drove me insane and was my tether to sanity.
This is my first novel. I can already see there will need to be a followup to this story but first I need to catch up on life. I have some short stories, poems and a column piece I owe. I need to wrap up the HWA Poetry Showcase, finish some feeback and answer a giant pile of emails and messages. Then I need to turn around and write the screenplay for this. I hope the screenplay is a little less like a battle to write.
This has been my first novel. Everything so far has been novellas. It didn’t turn out much like I planned at all. I thought I was going to write something like Alma Katsu’s The Fervor. Instead, I went deeper into the magic element then I planned. I was trying to write magic realism, so that’s okay. It just surprised me.
I also planned to tell the story of only one girl, but she split into three. I hadn’t planned on using shiisaa that much, but the Okinawan lion-dog guardians took over the plot. The only thing that doesn’t surprise me is that the story did its own thing. That always seems to happen.
At one point in the story there is a brave little boy named Shoji holding a male shiisaa aloft to bring encouragement to a room full of terrified people… no spoilers but that moment will be etched in my mind forever. I cried for a fictional boy. That moment is what tied it together.
But now I’m writing another book here. It’s 6:30 am and past my bedtime. Novel done, but now begins the next phase: editing, editing and more editing ∞. And a screenplay. For now, I just have had the immense pleasure of writing THE END.
As of tonight, I’m over halfway on Inujini, my current work in progress. I had no idea how hard this would be. Besides being my first novel, it’s my first historical fiction and will be my first screenplay as soon as I’m done but that’s not the hard part. Life has thrown everything at us this month—see the list below 😲
Right now if I stay on a 2,500 word daily goal I’ll still finish on time. I’ll do what it takes to get it done.
Since I started writing Inujini on June 23:
Lost an old friend.
Husband shot with a pellet gun.
Son went to ER for abdominal pain.
Son caught COVID.
I caught COVID—the horrible version.
Husband caught COVID—the horrible version.
Family member passed away.
Beloved pet passed away.
Bitten by a brown recluse.
I also have 12 students, 2 mentees, Space & Time open submissions, and the HWA Poetry Showcase to wrap up. So far, all the hardships seem to have passed and I’m back on my usual track. All I’ll say on the recent streak of bad luck… glad that’s over.
Now, on to the finish line—or as close to as possible.
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a more interesting blog title. It’s been a little bit crazy around here. We switched to a night schedule to optimize my writing schedule, my husband was randomly shot with a pellet gun, and my son went to the ER and came back with a positive COVID test. I look forward to going back to boring writer life. This will be happening as soon as I post these updates.
Schedule Reversal: Thursday we decided to swap our schedules back to nocturnal so I could get some work done during the quiet hours. Since Ryan works until midnight anyway, it worked for both of us. Now I wake up and all my messages are waiting for me rather than tricling through all day and distracting me.
Random Ryan Shooting: While the staying up all night went well, the second morning my husband was randomly shot in the park with a pellet rifle. The pellet embedded in his forearm about two inches. An inch higher and it would have been in his abdomen. It could have also hit bone or done nerve damage. We were lucky.
I tracked down who did it and we got a hold of some video, posted below. The first shots you hear were my husband being shot. Then you see the shooter step into view and shoot another man whom I’m pretty sure is part of our local homeless population. Yes, this has been reported. This is a TikTok trend all over the country. Everyone take care and stay aware! Read about the TikTok trend here.
And here’s the COVID: And just when we were thinking COVID might be a thing of the past, my adult son went to the ER last night and came home with a positive COVID test. So far we are all asymptomatic, which makes me wonder if I’ve had COVID before and not known it or will we get hit again in a few days. Getting losts of rest and taking our Vitamin D like always.
Poetry Postcard Fest: This has kept me sane. I signed up to send 31 postcards (+an extra one) with original poetry and decided to make my own postcards. I feel like I’ve posted about neurographic drawing (or neurographica) before. It’s art meditation. I’m decorating all my postcards with my neurographica. Find out more about the Poetry Postcard Fest here: https://ppf.cascadiapoeticslab.org
Back to Inujini: Remember how I was cooking along on Inujini? I haven’t written a word since July 1. I attended a presentation on the Battle of Okinawa and read The Girl with the White Flag by Tomiko Higa. I’ve been processing since. Earlier tonight it all clicked and I’ll be able to push through this to the end, probably still by my deadline of August 4. I did the same thing with Tortured Willows. I spent a moth “processing” and then I could suddenly get it all out.
There have been quite a few distractions the past two weeks, but I’ve managed to cut through them so I can return to Inujini. This next week is glorious and clear so I can stack up that word count ahead of Camp Necon.
I have two meetings, a friend’s book signing this Saturday (A Three-Letter Name by Annie Lisenby) and this Sunday at 2 pm CST is Instagram Poetry Live with fellow poet friend Amy Zoellers. You can watch for that on her IG channel here: hipness_and_outrage.
You can write the best book on the planet but if no one hears about it, no one will read it. That’s logic, but we all know creatives that refuse to market themselves and then complain when they have no sales. Like life, creativity will return what you put in to it.
What exactly is branding? The official definition: the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design. Branding helps us sell something. What are we selling as authors—books or ourselves? As writers, we are the product we are selling.
My Top 5 core principles of brand marketing:
Manage yourself, not your products. No Facebook page for your books. If you are a prolific writer no one will be able to keep up with all that, including you.
Don’t put “author” in your name social media. Reading John Doe, author only tells me you are brand new. Just like with writing, show, don’t tell. Stop telling people you are a writer and show them by doing writer things.
And while we are on this, the word “writer” is a little outdated. We are content creators. Books are one aspect of that content. We turn our books into movies and games and every word we produce becomes content. At the center of everything is a person creating it all with words.
Because you are the product, your books should match you. Let your books be aspects of who you are, not the other way around.
The most important part of branding: be authentic.
3 reasons to brand:
Branding builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. People have to see a name 3x before they recognize it. Recognition is getting over that awkward first date phase.
Branding is language. Based on the colors, fonts and imagery you choose, you can communicate who you are and all the things your readers can expect from you at a glance.
Branding is efficient. It’s like an elevator speech for the eyes. At a glance someone can tell if they want to know you more. This saves you both time. You can try to sell horror to romance readers, but why not sell it to the horror readers?
Come chat about life, lyrics, and mad poetry love with Amy Zoellers and Angela Yuriko Smith. Tomfoolery, shenanigans, electric ecleticisms and the usual literary lunacy. Drop your links in chat and share yourselves and your own work.
LINKS MENTIONED: ***some of these are affiliate links.
My goal here is to go throughout the year and each month pick out five of the best films, in my opinion, that in some way or another fit into the horror genre. They may not have been box office smashes. They may not have been critical successes. Some of them might even be more funny than scary. But, all of them will have made some kind of contribution to the genre or, at the very least, made their mark on me personally.
As I began doing my research on the movies released in June, it quickly became apparent, June may be the premier month for quality horror movies! There are a number of solid months coming up between now and the end of the year, and of course October has a huge number of releases. But June had a really surprising number of quality movies that fit the horror genre. It also has a fair number of potential dishonorable mentions, so this will be the first month that has both honorable and dishonorable!
Top five lists are, by their very nature, subjective and meant to be fun, conversation starting pieces. So, I encourage everyone to get involved in the comment section. Give us your top five, or talk about any of the films I mentioned. So, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Horror (ish) Movies Ever Released in the month of June!
Poltergeist, June 4, 1982. I vacillated a good bit on the number five spot because there are definitely at least six movies that could be in the top five spots, seven if you count the Annabelle sequel listed below. Ultimately, I went with Poltergeist because of its combination of startling special effects makeup, overall story, and performance by the cast.
I can still remember the first time I saw the scene where the character Marty hallucinates about pulling his face off in the mirror, and the effects at the time were terrifying. Throw in a number of well-timed jump scares, some good legitimate scary moments, and the creepy, and ultimately haunting, performance of Heather O’Rourke who played Carol Anne, and Poltergeist earns its spot in the top five of one of the most competitive months for horror movies.
The Thing, June 25, 1982. 21 days after the original Poltergeist came out, The Thing was released. I mentioned how the effects in Poltergeist were terrifying at the time, and that lasted approximately 21 days because the creature makeup and special effects of The Thing took it to a whole new level!
This was way, way before any kind of CGI was being used in moviemaking and, while you might not be familiar with his name, Rob Bottin pushed special effects makeup beyond where it had been previously. Just some of the movies where he has been designer of special effects makeup: Twilight Zone the Movie, Robocop, Witches of Eastwick, and Se7en. Those kind of effects combined with lots of tension, shocking transformations, and plenty of goo has The Thing edging just past Poltergeist into number four.
The Purge, June 7, 2013. This is another one of those movies that I feel has fallen victim to the “franchise” label. But the original The Purge movie is actually a pretty great movie. It makes a lot of commentary on our society specifically and humanity in general. For me, it really feels like a zombie movie without the zombies.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, any great zombie movie eventually makes the point that the humans are the bad guys. This has been done in other kinds of post-apocalyptic stories, but The Purge pulls it off without any kind of virus, natural disaster, or Armageddon of any kind. It simply presents the idea that many humans, by nature, are violent and depraved. Not necessarily angry, not necessarily outraged, but that some part of them inside needs to destroy something; to hurt someone.
The movie does a great job of setting the scene and making sure everybody understands what the rules of this world are: for 12 hours, once a year, everything is legal. I’ve noticed that overall film reviews of this movie are fairly low, and that’s why I say I wonder about the franchise affect, where sequels grow progressively worse and that winds up having people view the original in a lower light. To me, The Purge is a solid storyline, good tension building, a number of scary scenes and jumps to qualify as horror, and a good bit of blood as well.
Jaws, June 20, 1975. Wait a second… How is Jaws second on this list? This is the highest grossing horror movie ever released in June, and its sequel is the second! Jaws is the second highest grossing horror movie EVER! But, here’s the thing: I don’t really think it’s that scary.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is an amazing movie. Unbelievable cast, great storytelling, lots of blood for sure, yes, a few jump scares. I just never got the “scary” vibe from this movie. It doesn’t present to me as a horror movie. It presents to me as a great action/adventure movie with an extremely formidable antagonist, but apart from 2, maybe 3, scenes there’s really no outright suspense or make you jump moments. And I love this movie, it’s one of those movies that if I see it on TV, I pretty much have to watch it. I just don’t think it’s a horror movie.
Despite that, it has garnered its place on enough horror movie lists and made enough people afraid to go in the water that I couldn’t keep it off of this list. So, even though I personally don’t view it as a horror movie, because of how it is perceived by so many others and how great of a movie it is, it earns the title of second best horrorish movie ever released in June.
28 Days Later, June 27, 2003. Without question, the best zombie-ish movie ever created by anyone not named Romero. 28 Days Later brought the zombie movie back into the mainstream, even though, technically, and from a zombie fan’s perspective, they are not zombies. There are a lot of similarities to zombies, they want to eat you, if you get bit or otherwise infected, you become one of them. But, you don’t need to shoot these zombies in the head, you don’t need to destroy their brain. If you put enough bullets into them, they will eventually drop. They are “infected with the rage virus” so they are not really the undead.
All that being said, this is a great zombie movie! First, the main update, the zombies are fast. Like really fast. Like sprinting at top speed never going to give up until I eat you fast. For some zombie purists that either takes a while to get past, or it’s a showstopper. For me, I just took a moment to accept this new world. Also, as a note, it’s my belief nobody survives a fast zombie outbreak. With your typical, plodding zombie, they might catch you off-guard before you know what is happening, but once you are aware of the situation, it’s just about being smart. With fast zombies? In the immortal words of Bill Paxton’s private Hudson, “that’s it, man! Game over, man! Game over!”
Ultimately, this movie revolutionizes the appeal of the zombie movie genre, tells a great story, ups the horror of what a zombie is, and still manages to ultimately make the point that the humans are the bad guys! Throw in plenty of blood, plenty of jump scares, lots of tension building, great acting, and one of the best scores for a horror movie ever, you’ve got the best horror movie ever released in June.
Honorable Mentions:Annabelle comes home (June 26, 2019, but it involves an evil baby doll and that makes it ineligible to appear on a list I create), The Omen (June 25, 1976), Twilight Zone: The Movie (June 24, 1983), Rosemary’s Baby (June 12, 1968), George A Romero’s Land of the Dead (June 24, 2005)
Less Than Honorable Mentions: (remakes and sequels that failed compared to the original) The Omen (June 6, 2006, 30 years after the original, same month, vastly different results), Psycho 2 (June 3, 1983. Seriously?), Jaws 2 (June 16, 1978. This is the second highest grossing horror movie EVER released in June, and that pretty much tells you just how good the original Jaws was!)
And there you have it everyone, inarguably, the best 5 horror movies ever created and released in the month of June! Look forward to your comments and I’ll have another one out for you all next month.
Where I had been cooking along on Inujini at a few thousand words a day I hit a road block. From last Monday to Wednesday I couldn’t get even 500 words done. A combination of imposter syndrome and current events stopped me cold.
Even though I sat on my computer pretty much all day on Monday, I wrote a total of 8 words. Tuesday wasn’t much better at a whopping 30 words. I handled it by feeling sorry for myself, snapping at my family, and eating a pint of Ben & Jerries Phish Food in mourning.
I got relief today when I did my morning meditations and readings. The Ace of Scepters turned up in my tarot analytics to say I was about to come up to a surge of inspiration that would bring about my “ah-ha!” moment and to go back to my beginning. “Return to an origin point and start over… back to the beginning might just be the breakthrough” I need.
I thought about it. I was mixing it up with other stories I’d written. I started this book a week ago and I’d already forgotten the start. Then I remembered: It begins with a headache. Yuki is having headaches because she’s going through kami-daari, her shamanistic yuta spiritual awakening.
And then it hit me, I’d forgotten her internal struggle. I’d gotten so involved with following the WWII outline I’d forgotten that my protagonist is a young girl on the verge of womanhood and struggling to come to grips with her world falling apart on all levels.
Once I had that figured out the words were once again flowing. Up to 14,226 tonight for a total of 1,987 words. That’s not nearly as many as I hoped for, but it’s a lot better than Monday’s 8. Now that things are flowing again, I’m confident I’ll make up for lost time—but can there be such a thing as “lost time” in creation?
All my disgusting, cranky, ice cream eating activity is part of the process. Our failures are only fails if we leave them on the floor. As long as we pick ourselves up, wipe the chocolate off our faces and continue, it’s a win.
Hope this can be encouraging for anyone else struggling to create right now in all this madness. It’s okay to trip, it’s okay to wallow. Just don’t stay there. We need you.
Working away on Inujini, but today I failed my wordcount goal. I’m at 12,038 for the first week. Today was one of those days. I’m trying to keep my head down and stay focused but today I failed. I couldn’t concentrate on the novel because this poem wanted out. It’s out.
Enough is enough. I will not aplogize for being myself.
and you, looking at me looking at you looking away, both of us nervous. they say our eyes expose our souls, are windows to our dreams, ugly, awkward things falling from ashen skies with tattered wings. we’re told the things we love are wrong, there is no music in our song, not enough cover up to hide our scars, and happiness is always just a tomorrow’s tomorrow away and we’re never good enough today…
Enough is enough. I will not apologize for who you are now.
because you are perfect. really but not in the micro-plastic way where we are told to think outside the box but don’t get out of line and art is an investment, an NFT with an NDA, not a JOY. call the FDA to get an inoculation against free thinking-speech-mind because we all know there is no free lunch unless we vote for the right masters disastors of democracy whether red or blue, none care about you because we’re just GDP and bottom lines being kept in lines when they draw the lines between us and just us and divide us from justice by sorting us with color texture and size…
Enough is enough. Who is my brother’s keeper? Who is my sister?
you are. this isn’t a black thing or a white thing or a yellow, red, pink or rainbow thing. this is a control thing. you can swallow the red or the blue but whatever way you swing it remains the same thing. a matrix of lies, a web of control designed to keep us off balance. they shake drama like keys—and we say thank you and please from down on our knees demanding rights but accepting shackles, they keep our ruby slippers hidden away with the holy grail last week’s mail and Elvis…
Enough is enough. They can keep the payment plan. Love isn’t a debt.
this is an eight of swords moment we stand blind-folded and mute, degraded and berated, never good enough for company unless we buy more good china, free miracles for eternal installments. they say to be sheep and trust and let them shepard. no snake oil sold here, hush and swallow, don’t spit. keep it down. stop trying. keep buying.
Enough is enough but only when we decide enough is enough.
we don’t become enlightened by staring into the sun but by learning to see in the dark.
Still cooking along with Inujini and have made the minimum wordcount goal everyday so far and a bonus goal… but today I barely limped across the finish line.
This evening I finish at 7,511 words. I have no events/meetings/distractions until Tuesday evening so I can make mad gains.
What happened? Life, of course. Last night I stayed up until 4 am reading, but it was worth it. The book was excellent and I found out a crazy coincidence.
June 21 I found out the agent would be interested in a novel from me.
June 22 I brainstormed the plot and built a timeline.
June 23 I started writing. Tt was an auspicious day for me & my 12 year blog anniversary.
You know what else June 23 is? Okinawa Memorial Day, “a public holiday observed in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture annually on June 23 to remember the lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa.” 😲😲😲😲😲
I didn’t know this until I read it last night. Completely by coincidence I began writing my novel about the Battle of Okinawa on the day of rememberance for the Battle of Okinawa. Synchronicity, kismet, fate… What do you think?
The book I was reading is In the Woods of Memory by Shun Medoruma and Takuma Sminkey:
In the Woods of Memory is a powerful, thought-provoking novel that focuses on two incidents during the Battle of Okinawa, 1945: the sexual assault on Sayoko, 17, by four US soldiers and her friend Seiji’s attempt at revenge. Narrations through nine points of view, Japanese and American, from 1945 to the present day reveal the full complexity of events and how war trauma inevitably ripples through the generations. Akutagawa Prize–winner and activist Shun Medoruma was born in Okinawa. This is his first full-length work in English translation.